The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Master's Commendation

Awarded for outstanding service in the air, at the discretion of the Master.

(amended Terms of Reference 2019)


2018 awarded three times to: Group Captain John Middleton OBE RAF, Squadron Leader Mike Ling MBE RAF and Major Dennis W Sharf CD

GROUP CAPTAIN JOHN MIDDLETON OBE RAFMasters Commendation John Middleton

Group Captain Middleton has given a lifetime of service to the Royal Air Force and is currently the longest serving and oldest officer in uniform, yet continues to display the energy of a man half his age.  

His career started in October 1967 when he served 3 years as a Flight Cadet at RAF College Cranwell before commencing service as a Navigator on the F4 Phantom on 31 Sqn.  He qualified as a Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI) and taught on the Phantom OCU, completing 1275 hours on type.  Unusually, he was then selected for Pilot training, which he completed in 1983 and was posted to the Tornado GR1 Weapons Conversion Unit at Honington.  He completed 580 hours on the GR1 in QWI and Staneval roles.

In January 1987, he was posted to the F3 Operational Evaluation Unit before serving as a QWI on 5 Sqn.  Staff work at the Ministry of Defence beckoned and he was posted to the Operational Requirements staff where he was responsible for, inter alia, the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile programme.  In 1992, he was appointed OC 25F Sqn and had a busy and challenging tour including leading 2 operational deployments to Italy as part of Operation Deny Flight and training deployments to Red Flag and Singapore.  He completed 1640 hrs on the F3, 133 of which were flown on 36 operational missions.    In October 1995, he was selected for the prestigious role of Executive Officer to the Chief of the Air Staff and was involved in staffing, inter alia, the Strategic Defence and Security Review to protect RAF interests.  In May 1998, he was posted to Ramstein as the Deputy Chief of Staff for NATO’s  North Region Operations, representing the Service and the UK in this demanding and high profile role.

In 2003, John decided to change track and was selected for the role of Senior Schools Liaison Officer based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.  Applying the same professionalism and zeal to this role as he had to his previous flying duties, he championed 29 officer entrants into the RAF and was a great advocate for the Service across a range of schools and colleges. 

Clearly enjoying working with the next generation, John then applied to join the RAF Air Cadets as a Regional Commandant in the North, responsible for thousands of young air cadets and their supporting adult volunteers.  In this role, he applied his now trademark visionary approach to a vast range of initiatives and genuinely changed the landscape, modernising facilities and processes to deliver a more effective air cadet experience.  Still driven by a passion for all things aviation, his focus on introducing the Qualified Aerospace Instructor Course (QAIC) for senior cadets resulted in a high-quality course which is the envy of other Cadet Forces.  He championed the use of Sectors (Squadrons working together to share resources), was the driving force behind the development of the internal IT system (BADER), and co-authored a strategic review of gliding which set foundations for a sustainable aviation offer.  He also worked to engage local disadvantaged young people in the joy of aviation and was appointed an Officer of the British Empire in recognition of his efforts. 

In his final roleJohn Middleton 1, John was appointed as the Commandant  of 2 Flying Training School at RAF Syerston, responsible for the delivery of cadet gliding at 25 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons.  Sadly, within 3 months of assuming command, the entire glider fleet was paused due to technical assurance concerns and the next 4 years were probably some of the most challenging of his career.  Forced to reduce the footprint to 11 VGS and recover only a proportion of the Viking and Vigilant fleets, Middleton had to completely re-think the delivery of cadet gliding.  Whilst planning and implementing a complex and highly controversial restructure and recovery programme, which attracted regular Ministerial attention, he and his team also designed a new, progressive training syllabus and introduced high quality Part Task Trainers to the training.  He also initiated an annual Aerospace Camp which, in RAF100, will see over 750 cadets and staff at Syerston experiencing a wide range of aerospace STEM activities for the week.  John has worked tirelessly to champion the cause of cadet gliding and the wider aviation offer and has also advocated the establishment of a privately-funded, state-of-the- art Aviation Academy, which will bring new training opportunities to local youth and cadets alike.  This sits at the centre of the RAF100 Inspire Legacy proposition – The Trenchard Group.

In sum, John Middleton has made an indelible mark on the RAF and its Cadet Force and his enduring commitment merits recognition of the highest order.  His legacy is visible wherever you look across the RAF Air Cadets and the next generation of aviators are indebted to him for his vision, passion and unerring belief in the power of flight to inspire; something he has done for thousands over his long and distinguished career and, in recognition of which, he is awarded the Master’s Commendation.




Sqn Ldr Ling spent nine years on the Red Arrows team, including six as Red 10, and has landed a red Hawk in 46 countries and been involved in 640 displays. A stalwart of the team, Sqn Ldr Ling was recalled to the Red Arrows for the 2018 season as Red 3 following a tragic accident. Sqn Ldr Ling’s willingness to fill the gap was typical of his commitment to the long-term success of the Red Arrows.

But it is for his role in promoting the best of British science, engineering and education around the world that this award seeks to recognise, including his tireless Masters Commendation Lingdedication to using social media to highlight the work of the team, often with eye-catching photography.

This, combined with his role as Red 10 – the team’s supervisor tasked with monitoring safety flying with the display pilots as a mentor – made him one of the most recognised faces on the UK display circuit. Red 10’s job is crucial because it also entails ensuring nothing untoward is going to affect the team such as airspace infringements, and to act as the go-between linking the team and the display director as well as commentating during the display itself.

The role has enabled Sqn Ldr Ling to meet tens of thousands of people on the ground around the world and provide an inspiration to future generations of aviators and others interested in aerospace as a career, such as Air Cadets.

Ling was himself a member of 2427 (Biggin Hill) Squadron Air Training Corps, reaching the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer and receiving a Royal Air Force Flying Scholarship. He cites meeting the great Ray Hanna – another former Red Arrow – at the Biggin Hill Air Fair, as well as his beloved Red Arrows, for inspiring his service career.

After completing the first stages of flying training, he was posted to 72 (R) Squadron at RAF Linton-on-Ouse where he became a Qualified Flying Instructor on the Tucano TMk1 aircraft, teaching basic fast-jet flying to future pilots. He then completed NATO Flying Training in Canada on the Hawk 115 aircraft, after which he was posted to the Tornado F3 and joined 111 (F) Squadron based at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. Here he played an active part in the air defence of the United KingdoMike Lingm and the Falkland Islands on Quick Reaction Alert duties, as well as participating in major training exercises in the UK, Belgium, India and Denmark.

Joining the Red Arrows for the 2008 Season, he was selected for the Synchro Pair for the 2009 and 2010 Seasons. He was injured that year while ejecting from his Hawk during a training exercise in Crete. He recovered from his injuries and began flying again the following year.

Promoted to Squadron Leader on leaving the team, he became the Subject Matter Expert for the future UK Military Flying Training System while being a part-time pilot with No 1 Air Experience Flight at MOD St Athan, flying air cadets in the Grob 115E Tutor, before being recalled to the Red Arrows.

In recognition of his dedication to duty and tireless support for promoting the Red Arrows and the ‘Best of British’ abroad, particularly embracing the opportunity social media presents to reach new audiences, Squadron Leader Ling is awarded the Master’s Commendation.


MAJOR DENNIS W SHARF CDMasters Commendation Scharf

Major Scharf joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1991. In a career that spans 27 years, he has dedicated himself to advancing the RCAF's Search and Rescue (SAR) programme with over 7500 flight hours and 117 operational SAR missions.

Maj Scharf’s commitment to aviation professionalism started early, he graduated as the top pilot of his 'wings' course. Following CC130 Training, he commenced operational SAR flying with 435 Squadron in Winnipeg. In 1996, Maj Scharf carried out his first operational SAR mission delivering life-saving assistance to a critically injured Inuit trapper who had suffered an axe injury. In the 20 subsequent years, Maj Scharf would spend an estimated forty thousand hours on call, ready to take-off in as little as 30 minutes ''so that others may live''. Ultimately, he would be called upon to fly on 117 operational SAR missions. One of the most notable occurred near Pine Lake, Alberta; after locating a crashed aircraft, he dispatched his SAR Technicians by parachute to deliver life-saving assistance. When one of these technicians broke both legs upon landing, his efforts overhead the scene enabled the rescue of the original victims as well as his own crewmember. During Manitoba's Flood of the Century, Maj Scharf was recognized for saving lives by utilizing his unique SAR skills to turn night into day dropping parachute flares to assist relief workers. A qualified Search Master (SM), he has been integral to the coordination of major air search operations and is called upon often to train new SMs.

Maj Scharf’s commitment to rescue has extended beyond the Canadian border. In 1996, he delivered aid to refugees in Tanzania. In 1998, he flew relief missions into Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. In 2008, he supported the US SAR effort in Louisiana following Hurricane Gustav which had stranded millions.

In spite of his impreDennis Scharfssive operational achievements, Maj Scharf’s biggest impact to the RCAF SAR programme has come through his devotion to excellence in both flight instruction and safety. A qualified Instructor and Check Pilot, he has been instrumental in the formation of both individual SAR pilots as well as in the development of entire SAR crews. A calm professional aviator, his capacity to instruct, mentor and lead varied personalities is unsurpassed; his instructional efforts at 435 Sqn alone have culminated in the development of over 100 RCAF pilots. Concurrent to his instructional accomplishments, he was influential in the development and implementation of the RCAF Human Performance in Military Aviation Programme which is now used Air Force wide to ensure increased operational effectiveness through individual and team performance training. In his role as a SAR Staff Officer he is indispensable in providing operational subject matter expertise to the Fixed Wing SAR transition team thereby ensuring the future success of RCAF SAR as it transitions to a technologically advanced SAR fleet.

Major Scharf has demonstrated a passion and commitment to SAR through both his operational and instructional attention. A leader, innovator and mentor, his achievements are more than deserving of recognition and he is accordingly awarded the Master’s Commendation.


Previous Winners:

1977/78   Squadron Leader R Penny

1978/79   Mr Asad Nasr on behalf of Middle East Airlines

1979/80   Charles Nicholas Hoy Esq

               Hikmat M Ghosn

1981 - 1982 Not Awarded

1982/83  Alan Bramson Esq

              Arthur E Gibson Esq

              Eric H Woods Esq

1984 Not Awarded

1984/85   J R Kilner Esq & P Bonhomme Esq

1986 - 1987 Not Awarded

1987/88   First Officer Mimi Tompkins

1988/89   First Officer G Slader & Second Officer M Thomas of United Airlines

               Wing Commander M C Brooke

               Captain T F P Frizell

1989/90   A E Donlan Esq

1990/91   G P Sanctuary Esq

               Captain J Sirley

1991/92   Robert Legg Esq

1992/93   Mrs Constance E Fricker

1994  Not Awarded

1994/95   Professor Angus Wallace & Dr. Tom Wong

               Miss Tracey Leigh Signal

1995/96   Captain Peter Bugge & Captain John Robinson

1996/97   Flight Lieutenant Michael J Chatterton

1997/98   Malcolm Mason Esq

1998/99   Wing Commander Simon Meade

1999/2000 Captain Neville Grady

2000/01   Flight Lieutenant Rodney Leigh

               Captain John Savage

2001/02   Andrew Digby Esq

2002/03   Roger H Beazley Esq

2003/04   Squadron Leader Malcolm Hunt RAF

2005    Not Awarded

2005/06   Captain Ralph Kohn

2006/07   Victor Lockwood

2007/08   Squadron Leader Warwick Creighton MBE RAF

2008/09   Squadron Leader Alastair Pinner MBE RAF

               Captain Roland "Rolie" James DSM(Oman) BA(Hons)

2009/10   The Air Cadet Organisation

2010/11   656 Squadron Group AAC

               Miss Mandy Pantall

2011/12   Flight Lieutenant D J "Jack" Hawkins RAFR

               Garry Stanfield Smith

2012/13  The British Helicopter Team 2012

2013/14  Major Mark Martin AAC

               Royal Australian Air Force Air Mobility Group

2014/15  Lieutenant Commander Chris Götke AFC RN

               Royal Air Force Air Traffic Management Force

2016  Major Jean G R Leroux CD

2017  Captain Rosella Bjornson

         Lieutenant Colonel Kevin M Hall USAF

2018  Group Captain John Middleton OBE RAF

        Squadron Leader Mike Ling MBE RAF

        Major Dennis W Sharf CD