Beyond an honour to host RAF celebration gala, says pilot Carol Vorderman
Carol Vorderman has said it is "beyond an honour" to co-host a gala which will begin the celebrations marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force.
It was 100 years ago on April 1 1918 that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to created the RAF - the world's first independent air service.
On the eve of the anniversary Vorderman and Dan Snow will host a gala at the Royal Albert Hall featuring music, ceremonial drill, recollections of those who have served and video footage.
Ahead of the event, when asked about how she felt to be beginning the national celebrations, Vorderman told the Press Association: "I could not have dreamt of it.
"It is beyond an honour for me."
Describing the gala, the 57-year-old said there would be a "wonderful mix" of elements as they celebrated the anniversary and told the story of the RAF.
When pressed on what the RAF of 1918 would make of the current service, the former Countdown presenter, herself a trained pilot, said they would be "fascinated" by the history.
"They would have been astonished as to the scale of the technology, which has driven a lot of other technologies forward as well at a faster pace," she said.
"I think they would have been hopping up and down with glee, because those people who were involved in the early days were obviously pioneers themselves.
"And other than balloonists, nobody had got into the air before - you didn't have that view of the world before, and it was dangerous and it still is, but it particularly was then.
"They were all brave, courageous adventurers as much as they were military aviators in my view. They would have been astonished at what has come out of it."
Mother-of-two Vorderman revealed there was no one on her Welsh side of the family who had any links to aviation, but discovered when she met her father in her 40s that she had cousins in the Dutch Air Force.
An honorary Group Captain in the RAF, when asked what her favourite RAF aircraft was, Vorderman described herself as "utterly predictable" as she named the British-designed Harrier Jump Jet.
"They are just extraordinary, what they do is extraordinary, you just think 'oh my god it is going up', and then they rotate the engine and it is off," she said.
"It is magical, totally magical, and she looks beautiful."
Asked whether she would take the opportunity to fly one if she could, Vorderman joked: "I would be beating people off with a stick to try and get to the top of the queue, definitely."
Describing the RAF as a "unique organisation", Bristol-based Vorderman said those employed by the service were "very clever and very well qualified".
"But also it is like a meritocracy - everyone in it has a passion for aviation, and the banter is amazing," she added.
"You can't be involved with aviation unless you feel it within you."
An ambassador for the RAF Air Cadets since 2014, Vorderman said the cadets was something that was "terrifically important" to the RAF because so many go on to full-time service.
"Just as you have this amazing camaraderie in the adult Royal Air Force, you have that in the air cadet organisation as well," she said.
"And they get involved in these amazing things that otherwise they wouldn't be able to get involved in, and these are young people from normal backgrounds.
"They absolutely adore it, there are 60,000 altogether including our amazing adult staff volunteers who have full time jobs and they give so much time, free."
Describing how there is a "palpable love" for the air cadet organisation within the RAF, Vorderman added: "I would encourage every single young person and their parents to get their children involved, they will never regret it."