Dean Close pupils were thrilled to welcome to School, Flight Lieutenant and contestant on the BBC Two series ‘Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?’ – Kerry Bennett.

To demonstrate the themes of dream big, work hard and don’t give up when things don’t go to plan,Kerry spoke to parents, staff and pupils about her journey to becoming an RAF Pilot and the challenges she faced on the television series.Kerry explained how she wanted to be a Jet Pilot and after four years of training didn’t make it through the final selection process. Whilst this was a huge disappointment, it meant that she went on to be part of the Royal Squadron, flying VIPs around the world. Some of her passengers have included, The Queen, Prince William and actor Daniel Craig.

Kerry is best known for her participation in the series ‘Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?’ where she made it to the final three. Kerry explained some of the challenges she faced including learning to fly a helicopter, making thousands of origami birds, learning Russian and the ‘dunker’, a simulator that tests astronauts in an underwater crash situation. Kerry’s favourite task was the zero gravity experience, during which contestants had to assemble an old Polaroid camera.

The pupils from Year 9 and 10 were eager to Kerry questions, such as “Have you ever had to perform and emergency landing?” and “Were you scared of any of the challenges on the show?” Kerry recalled a situation in which a buzzard flew into the wing of the aircraft she was piloting and her need to be calm under pressure due to the possibility of engine failure. The calm and collected pilot also told pupils that she was incredibly nervous during the filming of ‘Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?’ and at times she felt intimidated by her fellow contestants. After one particular task she felt she had done so badly that she was surely the next contestant to be eliminated, however; her calm demeanour under pressure and her gracious handling of failure compelled the judges to keep her in the competition.

Kerry asked pupils to consider the question “What would you do if you were not afraid?”

Kerry said, “There are so many opportunities for young adults today and many different career paths open to them. Whichever route each individual chooses there are bound to be challenges along the way and unexpected bumps and curves in the road. I hope from the experiences I have shared today they will embrace the challenges they face with bravery and positivity. The pupils were a pleasure to talk to and asked some challenging questions, I wish them all well with their adventures.”

Throughout the afternoon Kerry demonstrated times in her life, overwhelmed and not good enough and still pushed on to succeed. She still dreams of being an astronaut and is working hard to achieve her goal. We wish her well and very muchlook forward to following her progress.