Is the RAFAC in a death spiral?

Is the ACO in a death spiral. Having sat on the side for a long time and watching the various threads and the comment posted, does the Corps have a future due to all of or a combination of the various factors below:-

Admin burden
CFAV undertaking activities that may make them responsible in law for which they may have not been trained adequately such as H&S and fire safety
SOVs and the recent edict.
Most importantly, CFAVs re-appraising their lives and commitments following Covid and 2 yrs of lockdowns.
Poor leadership and the perception of a leadership which doesn’t understand what is happening on Squadrons.



Now there’s a grenade…must keep an eye on this…


Volunteer organisations are always in flux & it’s always different in Comparing now to those awesome days when we were cadets

It depends whether, if you excuse the metaphor, we have a “flying” mentality or a “gliding” mentality. [I’m using these terms metaphorically and no insinuation or comparisons should be made by real pilots of fixed wing - non powered aircraft]

If we are a “flying” mentality then we will go up and go down, occasionally stall and go into a downward spiral but able to recover as we had sufficient height before the change/manoeuvre. Turbulence is to be avoided but it something we can deal with.

If we have a “gliding” mentality then we will never go up again (gliders don’t do that) and a have a fatalistic attitude that as long as we manage our steady declining altitude with the right glide slope we will land safely albeit never to take off again. Turbulence is to be looked for & encouraged as the thermals & hot air can give a bit of lift than can keep us going for longer but a glider can never ascend and as such those with a “gliding” mentality accept that we should manage the inevitable & unavoidable decline/decent.

This is where I think we are as an organisation we have too many “Glider” mentality and not enough of the flying “powered flight mentality”.

You can see both paid & volunteer staff pulling their hair out to fight the issue, avoid the turbulence and & get us to starting going up again so we can get the altitude to start doing the loop-the-loop while the “gliding” mentality are seeking out the turbulence and saying that we must accept the environment as we can only go down.

The organisation has been hit by covid which has reduced the resilience of the organisation (less height for the powered lot to do the manoeuvres or pull us out of the spin in time) and as such no one has (publicly) pushed back as much as they use to be able to, to make sure things work.

As such we have more & more regulations that is not suitable or compatible with a volunteer organisation yet the “gliding” mentality is that we must accept the conditions & the decline.

The ATC part of RAFAC is struggling and could be in a death spiral- although the more accurate term would be a cascade failure.

Too much pressure on a volunteer causes them to quit. Other volunteers don’t have capacity to take over that aspect of the work so things don’t get done, more pressure is applied so more volunteers quit etc.

So the question is not are we in a death spiral or cascade failure.

It is how do we recover? How do we pull up with over stressing the air frame? How do we return back to straight & level flight?

An engineer mentality would be to ground everything fix things slowly get the systems realigned and then take off again - a sound plan but is reliant on time which we don’t have and we’re still in the downward spin?

First step would be to stop spinning & then the next step would be to pull up.

How to stop spinning? Firstly put a “pause” on the issuing of all new IBNs to allow a systematic policy review.

Secondly all new IBNs and policies must have a section stating what considerations have been given to the effect on the volunteers and what steps must be taken to mitigate any effect on morale. It doesn’t have stop the policy just give that new consideration.

How to pull up?

Each RC should have a teams meeting /star chamber with all Sqn COs in their Area of responsibility (single mtg with everyone attending) . All full frank questions and answers, no ranks - just responsibilities. If not the RCs then it should OCs with Commandant AC.

Then trust needs to be built back up between the paid staff & volunteers, between the volunteers and also in the individual volunteer themselves many of whom have lost confidence in their skills & ability due to skill fade and rather than deal with this replacing it with angry and frustration.

The key is to deliver the organisation as suited to now and deliver what we need now not try to recreate the air cadets of our youth. We should be respectful of the past but not bound by it.

So to summarise a short answer to your question yes we are in a death spiral but we always are and there is enough height currently for us to pull out, just not as much as we are use to and this time it’s going to be a close one.


I’m sure (or at least hoping) that as an organisation we’ll find a way to pull through it all. There’s definitely issues, but we’re all there because of a passion, right? We’re all, at our own pace, hitting that spark again. Not everything is plain sailing, so we live with the waves.

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This forum doesn’t accurately reflect the real world - not to say that some of the views aren’t current. The fact you call it the ACO makes me think that it’s not current - been a while since we’ve been the aco.

But I see a lot of bitter, ex, or should be ex staff and cadets that remember the “good old days”

Just look on social media, the activities that go on, the intakes that are still happening.

Is it perfect - absolutely not, is there people who just need to leave - absolutely. Too many people who aren’t willing to go with the new ways of things, and be flexible and adapting.

The negativity of those with rose colour glasses are what will kill the Air Cadets if it isn’t careful. Those who shoot down ideas because they’ve got 27 years experience and they know it doesn’t work, that every time a cadet isn’t the “ideal” cadet they moan and bitch about the cadets aren’t the same.

Staff need to be willing to set their own boundaries in a healthy way, they need to know that cadets will go on without them, so if you aren’t enjoying cadets anymore then maybe it’s time to leave. Yes we need staff, but we need people to enjoy it. If the staff are enjoying it, and are willing to explore, and put Enthusiam into it - we’ll keep going.


Nothing to discuss.


Only answer that logically and truthfully can be given.

So experience is now worth nothing…

Are you Tony?

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If we took that attitude there would be nothing left.
Of the org.
At all.


Sorry, I can’t not phrase this harshly: your attitude is exactly that which if shown too much by senior leaders will push an irrecoverable amount of CFAV out of the organisation. You’ve been very judgemental - and of people you don’t know. I would also respond that it is perhaps you with the rose-tinted glasses (it is, after all, an interesting paradox for someone unhappily complaining to be wearing them!) or at the very least blinkers on.

While bringing a semantic argument in an attempt to belittle and dismiss someone’s opinion is naïve at best and offensively conceited at worst, there is some truth to some of what you say; however…

The idea that unfair burden, legislative overreach, and wilfully ignorant (of the frontline reality) policy-making should be accepted by volunteers - either present or future - is boggling.

The very people you are denigrating feel the way they do because they are among the most passionate about our mission. That’s why they feel so strongly about these topics. What makes the organisation known as the Air Cadets is (albeit arguably subjectively) being degraded. As the ADCC, ATC, CCF(RAF) and ACO, the RAFAC has a rich and vibrant history which a lot of people take a lot of pride in. It will have a future, but the fear is that will be in name only and what it becomes will defy its history, not build upon it.

The enthusiasm you encourage comes from energy and that energy is being sapped by admin and roadblocking.

Yes, activities are happening - we’re all running them! Don’t think for a minute that any activity you see on SM definitely hasn’t had its struggles and complaints to actually get there. To point at those and say “look, you’re all wrong” is presenting a false dichotomy - people can complain AND still run activities.

I can also guarantee you that the very remarks you say aren’t reflective of the real world very much are - I have the same conversations with people who aren’t on this forum all the time.

Change is fine and acceptable. Many things have changed over the years that haven’t garnered the levels of response seen more recently. Many have been welcomed as positive. It’s the nature and effect of the change that causes issues.

This is not the military, we are not employed. Volunteers do not jump nor do they ask “how high” without first asking “why”.

Because a volunteer is unpaid, their time is even more valuable to them than when acting as an employee. Anything which causes them to spend that time needs to be considered and incredibly well justified with a tangible benefit to the volunteer and/or in our case the cadets. Anything which takes a volunteer away from what they desire to do or makes it harder needs to have its impact very carefully considered and balanced, then correctly communicated and justified. This is something that needs to be better respected and understood. The vast majority didn’t sign up to perform admin, they signed up to deliver lessons and activities, and provide opportunities not readily available or affordable elsewhere, to inspire and develop the next generation. There is acceptance that with that comes certain levels of admin, but the direction of policy and administrative tasks is making it ever-harder for volunteers to efficiently and effectively do what they signed up for across the breadth of potential experiences.

So, perhaps you could begin debating the points raised instead of dismissing them offhand based on assumption and lack of empathy?


An interesting question, and already some interesting responses. But I’m not going to get into the politics of the CoC :man_shrugging:

Using a crashing aircraft as the analogy. A death spiral, probably not, but the pilot is pulling back on the control column with all his effort to stop the plane from crashing. Can it be saved, there’s a very good chance, but every member of the crew needs to assist before it gets splattered all over the countryside.

Covid has certainly made staff refocus their personal lives, I know I have. A change in work/home/CFAV balance has change people’s priorities, which has made many re-evaluate their future direction, even with RAFAC. But it is already noticeable that pressures are being brought to bear through the CoC, activities being thrown into the mix, and previous expectations being expected again by those in the CoC and outside RAFAC.

Cadet numbers have slowly recovered, well they have in our area. Cadets seeing activities through Cadet Portal, again with expectations of staff to cover events. No understanding that staff may have other plans. Yes, we are here to deliver the ‘cadet experience’ but what is the experience; is there an expectation that this will be the pre-covid ‘cadet experience’ or something different!!

As for squadron numbers, we could close some but is there appetite at all levels. Could change a group of low performing squadrons into a couple of average/high performing squadrons. This might see a reduction in those staff who have gained other interests or personal lives are coming to the fore, and even those who are hanging on to see what happens in the short term.

RAFAC has changed due to Covid, but this needs to be recognised by everyone in the CoC. Grass roots CFAVs see this on every parade night. The CoC only see social media outputs from squadrons, which is full-on activities, smiling cadets, loads of badges and loads of responses to photos, videos and other types of commentary. But what is having a detrimental effect on RAFAC is the apathy from the CoC!! Whilst success breeds success, apathy also breeds apathy.

I wouldn’t call it a death spiral, but its definitely a flat spin without any control from the pilot. And just remember what happened to Goose when he ejected from his Tomcat!!


In all honesty, anyone ending a post with ‘discuss’ is just looking for people to argue with each other.

The RAFAC will survive because of the quality of volunteers in the organisation. We are making a difference, turning children into responsible and valued members of society, just as previous generations of volunteers did for us.


I can’t think of a better analogy, but it depends on if the pilot in the story is the volunteer cadre or CAC.

I don’t think the organisation is in a death spiral, or even necessarily a cascade failure. Instead it’s going in what is seen (by those responsible for physical delivery on behalf of the decision makers) to be going in an unfavourable direction.

There will be failure points, and if the direction continues there will be an increase in those bailing out. To bring it more maritime, CFAV believe we are turning towards an iceberg, are looking at what is above the surface (what has and is happening and being announced, what we’re experiencing on units, etc), and surmising what could be below - the points of failure and the triggers for further abandonments.

Welcome to the forum and thanks for getting involved.

The line above is really not the case and considering how long bob has been around here I’m pretty sure that’s not the intention - it’s not invalid to ask an observation-based question and ask for feedback. It’s somewhat a cornerstone of encouraging and developing critical thinking, promoting healthy debate, and generating discussion. I use it with cadets all the time. I need let you know that as per the Acceptable Usage Policy, responses should be constructive. I don’t think your first line quite fits that requirement so please bear this in mind for the future.

…And anyone “arguing” as opposed to debating, sensibly challenging, or questioning will likely be considered to be in breach of the Acceptable Usage Policy, posts that get too heated will be deleted, and users will receive at least a warning.

If you need to check the Forum rules and AUP, you can find it here

To respond to the meat of your reply, the RAFAC will survive, but your logic is predicated on the assumption the quality volunteers stick around. How well can it survive - or I’m sure the preference would be thrive - if too many of them don’t? The latter is unfortunately the potential fate raised and discussed on and off the forum in a few places…


Not at all - there’s not enjoying it in the moment and identifying ways that could make it better.

Choosing an activity where you are willing to accept the admin burden, the frustration because you get joy out of it. Seeing the cadets achieve, achieving something yourself.

But there are plenty out there who genuinely do not enjoy it, only see the negative, bring down everyone around them. But they are still in because they don’t feel that they can leave.

Perhaps I poorly worded it

We can and should constructively debate and fight for change/stability/overall better for the staff and cadets. But whilst we are doing that we need to support each other on the ground level, and not dissuade people from doing something because of the hurdles we have to jump over. And it’s not just over the admin burden and legislation elements, the amount of anger over things such as gender neutral language, and uniform regulations over pony tails and males having long hair,

I found it ironic that you mention about not being in the military, we aren’t but I find quite often (at all levels and maybe that’s the problem) we try to be more Military than the actual RAF is.

But we are being drowned in negativity and it’s very hard to surface from that. I think that is far more sapping to the energy and Enthusiasm than the legislative, and admin burden.


I wonder this sometimes. Then I remember the conversations I have with other staff (who likely aren’t on here) that demonstrate very similar opinions and sentiment to that expressed on here.

I do think that the sentiment on here is probably more negative because many of us use this as a safe place to vent frustrations (hopefully largely still constructively), while we don’t go into detail around successes because we can talk about those more openly.

I think this occurs as more habit and a recurring poor communication of ATC vs CCF vs RAFAC. There’s still a lot of confusion among staff I speak to as to what is what.

A bunch of CCF staff I was speaking two the other week kept referring to all ATC staff as RAFAC staff - while not wrong, they were meaning to distinguish between CCF and ATC.

The organisers of such events deserve credit that these are still happening despite all the challenges. I refer to my post from yesterday - have everyone think “how can I make this easier for the volunteer” with every issue or change.

I agree with this point - there are many people in the organisation who are resistant to change. Many of them, due to their experience, are in wing/region level positions.

Large parts of the problem here are due to communication issues. “Barked” orders through IBN and policy change that isn’t seen by large numbers of staff lead to confusion and frustration when they’re told they’re “doing it wrong”.

The entire attitude to change in the organisation has become very poor. Change should be a good thing. Instead, it’s looked upon with resentment because it usually leads to more work for the volunteer to do.

When was the last time you saw a change come through CoC and think “that’s great - that’s a real time saver”, or “that’s fantastic - a whole new opportunity for cadets”? Looking through the announcements since the new year, of the 33 (if I count correctly) there are 2 I would consider fitting into the “vaguely positive” camp.

Also agreed, to a degree. The problem, however, is that if everyone large numbers of staff leave at once, then we’re in deep trouble.

All staff (volunteer and perm) in a management position need to be taking a long look at what they’re doing to make things more enjoyable for the staff under them to see how many staff they can retain.

I think this is probably the truth.

Staff will leave, squadrons will close, and the number of cadets we are able to influence will be reduced. But it will go on for the foreseeable.

To go back to @Chief_Tech’s analogy, we end up on a descent into a very small number of units, not because of lack of interest by cadets, but because we simply don’t have enough staff to support them.


Agreed, to a point. Again, we need to see leadership at all levels to bring up morale across the organisation. Removal of administrative burden and a more balanced approach to legislative burdens would help with this.

If your argument is that morale isn’t low in reality (and is only portrayed as such on here), then I’d like to move to wherever you are in the country. Around here, it definitely is.

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Seems like you’re on the same page under the surface.

You won’t get many on this forum disagreeing about the dinosaurs you describe there - and we’ve actively shut a few of them down because the forum is open to all and discriminatory posts aren’t tolerated.

Pretty sure that’s a running joke in many places around the country!

Stick me in front of a group of cadets out of the office and I’m as happy as Pharrell! I think we all strive to avoid letting what’s behind the scenes affect the cadets - there’s another thread that unfortunately shows that that’s not always possible. However, I previously accepted the admin burden that came with what I do. I’m not the one changing the terms of that agreement and adjusting the balance of the trade-off.

After two days of sunshine I’m feeling better generally, and can see some hope for better activities. That doesn’t mean I will feel any better about the things I’ve complained about.

We’re all coming out of winter, and more broadly still recovering from 18 months out of action. Upon return, many were beginning to feel better, but the grind kicked in, announcements were made, new or amended admin was created, increasingly restrictive policies were announced…

There’s no low as low as the low you hit when you’re dragged down from a high - all of the positives of returning were tarnished, then we hit winter and the literal and figurative rain hasn’t stopped. As I’ve just spotted @Squirrel point out, our leaders need to recognise the physical impact of their decisions, the mental health effects still being felt, and lead CFAV out of the rut and give us things that raise morale.

Recently it’s all been diktat and stick - and attitudes like “that’s the way it is, like it or lump it”, “suck it up”, “it’s not about you”, “if you don’t like it I don’t care, perhaps you should leave”.

That’s not leadership.


Load of crap, organisation has been going since 1941 and it will be going long after we are dead, we are but custodians for a new generation.

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If you have no custodians, you have no organisation.


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?