Military MBE for TUI pilot Katy in New Year Honours for her work in the RAF Air Cadets and Pilots Together charity
A Hampstead Norreys woman has been appointed a military MBE for her work with the RAF Air Cadets and a newly formed charity.
Katy Lee, a 32-year-old airline pilot who works for TUI, joined the air cadets as a civilian instructor when she was in her early 20s.
She has since gone on to become the regional aerospace officer for London and the South East region, with responsibility for coordinating and enthusing more than 7,000 cadets.
There are just seven people in her position in the country and she is the only woman.
Ms Lee, who grew up in Aldworth, also helped establish a charity in 2020, Pilots Together, to help pilots who had lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She was named in the New Year Honours list earlier this month, after finding out herself just two days before when she received a call from the Commandant of the Air Cadets.
"My first conversation with the Commandant was one of disbelief as it was so out of the blue," she said.
"It has been nice to have that recognition, especially for the charity, it's team recognition as well.
"It's so unusual to get something like this in the military, especially the cadets. It isn't the sort of thing you expect to happen."
The official citation said the MBE was for her professional, voluntary and charity achievements.
Her work with the charity has also included talking about mental health - something she says does not happen enough in her industry.
Ms Lee's father, also a pilot, died by suicide and so it is something she said she has always thought about.
"It's making people realise they are not infallible, but that's not a bad thing; it's natural," she added.
"I talk about it a lot on social media and it feeds in to Pilots Together."
The charity has recently launched a free and confidential text crisis service, which Ms Lee says was "a huge passion" for her.
Although they have also given away something in the region of £100,000 to colleagues in need, she said the impacts of the pandemic weren't just financial.
Wellbeing issues were just as important with many pilots feeling like they had lost their identities when they lost their jobs.
Her human factors work - which looks into how humans interact with their environment, specifically in aviation in Ms Lee's case - was also recognised in the award.
Having achieved a Masters in Human Factors in Aviation she now also works with other industries, including the London Ambulance Service.
"Having an awareness that these services are there - both the charity and the opportunities available through the Air Cadets - is my dual focus," she said.
"In the cadets we can give people that taste of what the military is like and, regardless of whether the cadets go into the military or the aviation industry, they will come away with greater confidence and leadership skills and a great deal of tangible qualifications, which is great."