EXCLUSIVE BY DAVID LONG - Sunday News
THE sky is the limit for All Blacks captain Richie McCaw – he's become a squadron leader for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Sunday News can today exclusively reveal the 74-test veteran has accepted a request by the RNZAF to become an honorary squadron leader until December 31, 2011.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to mix with them and also to give them a bit of my experience in what we (the All Blacks) do," McCaw said.
The position is fitting for McCaw, who is proudly following in the jetstream of his late grandfather Jim McCaw who was a RNZAF fighter pilot during World War II.
"We had a pretty good relationship. I learnt to fly in the same place as he learnt to fly and he used to tell me stories about the war all the time," McCaw told the TimesOnline in 2006.
In 1944 McCaw senior saved countless Londoners' lives by shooting down German V1 rockets and when he ran out of ammunition bravely risked his life by bumping missiles off-target using the wing-tip of his Hawker Tempest MK5.
He was credited with 19 1/2 "kills" and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his attacks on German-controlled railways and missions over sea which saw 73 ships destroyed.
When McCaw was nine he flew gliders around Otago with his grandfather, who died in 1996.
Since then McCaw has gained his pilot's licence and taken flights with the RNZAF.
"I've got to know a couple of guys in the Air Force over the last three or four years, just by chance," McCaw told Sunday News."Because of that I ended up doing a bit of flying with them, because obviously I've got that interest.
"Last year I popped up to Woodburn, Blenheim, and talked to some of their officer cadets and it went from there. I talked to them a bit about the leadership stuff we do in the All Blacks and I think there are quite a few similarities between what we do in the All Blacks team to what they do in the Air Force.
"I guess that's where the offer came from and I thought it was a great opportunity to mix with them and also to give them a bit of my experience."
Group captain of Air Force People, Kevin McEvoy, said it was great to have McCaw on board.
"As a captain of the All Blacks, Mr McCaw has made himself available to the Air Force as a role model both as an outstanding sportsman and leader," he said. "His passion for aviation combined with his leadership skills and personal integrity reflect the values the Air Force seeks to foster within our own people."
The 28-year-old flanker anticipated doing similar work with young pilots and officer cadets as he's done on an informal basis in the past.
"If they feel I can offer a bit there (in leadership) then that's what I'm more than happy to do."
McCaw hasn't ruled out joining the Air Force fulltime in the future.
"Obviously over the next couple of years I'm playing and I have to do what I do to have the honorary position. But hey, who knows what happens after that? With my interest in flying you never know."