A pilot in the RAF can be one of the most dangerous, but exciting jobs in aviation. You may find yourself providing vital air-to-air support to ground forces, flying in life saving supplies in a humanitarian crisis, or flying search and rescue missions. Either way, life as a RAF pilot will be challenging and varied.
The RAF has some of the most advanced and modern aircraft in the world. It is Euorpe's most equipped air force. You can be assured that as a RAF pilot, you will have access to some of the best equipment on offer. With opportunities such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, or in-development aircraft including the F-35 and A400M.
The RAF recruit the best young people to fulfil their air crew requirements. This is based on aptitude, fitness, medical and teamwork abilities. Applying for flight crew positions are extremely competitive and there are hundreds of applications for every successful candidate.
The Eurofighter is the RAF's fourth generation fighter
All RAF Pilots are assigned to either fast-jet, multi-engine or rotary types. Assignments are based on a number of factors. Pilots with the highest aptitudes, fitness and who meet the strict body dimension requirements will be assigned to fast-jets. The remaining pilots will be assigned to rotary or multi-engine aircraft.
Pilots may also change between fast-jet, rotary or multi-engine streams during their flying careers in the RAF. For example some fast-jet pilots may go onto multi-engine or rotary operations after a number of years.
All successful applicants will initially be sent to RAF Cranwell in Linconshire for their Initial Officer Training. This consists of a total of 30 weeks tuition and will transform you from a civilian into a fully commissioned officer of the RAF. This stage of your training will develop your intellectual, military and leadership skills as well as building up your fitness in order to serve effectively. This is the generic phase of RAF training where no pilot specific training will be given and you will be mixed with recruits destined for many different roles in the RAF.
Upon successful graduation student pilots will go onto Elementary Flying Training (EFT). EFT takes place at RAF Cranwell utilising the Grob Tutor light trainer. UAS graduates will not do their EFT at Cranwell but will return to one of the UASs for further flying training there. During this phase students will learn all the basics of flying such as aircraft handling, manoeuvres, landings, takeoffs, navigation, aerobatics and formation flying.
It is after the EFT when pilots are selected for either fast-jet, rotary or multi-engine flying. This is for recruits perhaps the most crucial part of the process and it will define the rest of their RAF flying career. It is possible for recruits to specify a preference although this normally holds little significance as pilots are streamed by aptitude, fitness, character and physical dimensions.
The Tucano is used for RAF Basic Fast Jet Training (BFJT)
Once recruits are streamed for their type then this is where the training paths diverge as student pilots trained accordingly. Fast-jet students will be sent to RAF Linton-On-Ouse in Yorkshire for Basic Fast Jet Training which consists of around 120 flying hours on the Tucano. Fast-jet students are then sent to RAF Valley for Advanced Fast Jet Training on the Hawk. This is the most intense phase of fast-jet training and will determine if the student pilot has what it takes to become a fighter pilot in the RAF.
Those destined for Rotary are sent to the RAF's Defence Helicopter Training School at RAF Shawbury. Initial helicopter training takes place on the Eurocopter Squirrel followed by by more advanced training on the Bell Griffin.
The Lockheed Tristar is one of the RAF's multi-engine types
Muti-Engine recruits remain at Cranwell for further training but this time on the Slingsbury Firefly. The Firefly prepares students for multi-engine flying and thereafter students progress to more advanced multi-engine training on the King Air.
Once student pilots have completed their flying training on their respective streams then they are awarded their wings and will enter Operational Conversion Training. This is where students are taught to fly the aircraft that they will be operating on their respective front-line squadrons. For fast-jet pilots this could include the Tornado or Eurofighter. Rotary pilots can expect the Sea King, Puma, Chinook. Merlin or Griffin. Multi-engine assignments may include flying the RAF's transport aircraft such as the C130 Hercules, C17, Tristar or VC10.
Potential pilot candidates are sent to the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre at RAF Cranwell for up to 4 days where they will face a number of selection tests. These include aptitude tests, physical exercises, a medical, fitness tests and an interview.
Candidates face a number of aptitude tests where each test is aimed at discovering different skills and abilities. Tests will include numerical, deductive and verbal reasoning, spatial awareness, memory, work rate, mechanical and electrical comprehension. It is important to perform well in these tests as they will determine if you have the mental ability to be a RAF pilot.
Physical exercises will consist of various group exercises. Typical exercises consist of being set a problem or challenge which you must solve or complete within your specified team. Here the selectors will be analysing your teamwork, leadership skills as well as your problem solving abilities.
All candidates will be given a thorough medical. All RAF pilots must adhere to strict medical requirements and anyone who fails the required standard will not be able to pursue a pilot career in the RAF. Elements tested include eyesight, body mass index, weight and medical conditions (past and present).
The fitness test is used to measure whether you have the required fitness to first undergo training and then to be an effective member of the RAF. Potential pilots do not need to be athletes but they need to have a good level of fitness. Initial Officer Training and then pilot training can be physically challenging, especially those streamed for fast-jet, so this is an important test to ensure that you are capable of completing this training.
The interview stage will be a chance to meet one to one with the selectors where you will asked a number of questions on a wide range of topics. Selectors use interviews to discover that you have the right mentality and character to serve effectively as a pilot. Candidates may have excellent aptitude and fitness but may fail at this stage because they do not have the required mindset to serve in the armed forces.
Passing selection is just the beginning of the journey to become a RAF pilot. You will also have to pass the high standards required at Initial Officer Training and flying training. Passing selection at the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre does not yet guarantee that you will make it. One must stay focused throughout training to succeed.
If you wish to become a pilot in the RAF and you meet the required selection criteria then the first step should be to go and visit one of the RAF's career offices. They will give you an initial assessment to determine your suitability before being referred to the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre.
For more information on becoming a RAF pilot visit the RAF careers website at www.raf.mod.uk/careers.