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Where do RAF pilots come from now?

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Where do RAF pilots come from now?

Old 27th Nov 2023, 20:33
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Where do RAF pilots come from now?

I was asked a question of the other day about the source of RAF pilots and being of a certain age, I had to say I had no idea !

The gist of the query was where non-fast jet pilots actually emanated from. When I was going through, the RAF was of a size that those that fell by the fast jet wayside were, having reached an acceptable stage of training, offered the opportunity to go multi-engine or rotary. Obviously the Service was a lot bigger in those days, Cranwell, Linton and Fenton for the JP as an example and of course there were far more helicopter and multi-engine types in the inventory. Now, we have a much smaller Service and if reports are to be believed, the intake of what we used to call GD/P recruits are far fewer on the ground notwithstanding that it seems to take an inordinate length of time to actually reach a fast-jet squadron. So, to summarise, are there enough ‘drop-outs’ from fast jet training to provide the necessary numbers of new pilots for the multi/rotary fleets or maybe pilots stay longer in role with less incentive to rush off and join the airlines at the first opportunity.

Sorry if that’s all a bit long winded but answers on the proverbial postcard would be appreciated.
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28th Nov 2023, 17:07
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Location, Location, Location.

It would appear there is a familiar theme developing. It seems many Air Forces struggle from with same problem. Location.

It is never considered by those in charge but it plays a huge factor in the recruitment of a generation that are far better informed than their predecessors. I include my generation in that before anyone things I’m slinging mud unnecessarily.

In Canada very few students wanted to go FJs when I was there. They didn’t want a life in Cold Lake or Bagotville. Omani students don’t all want a life in Thumrait or Adam. And now Brit students seemingly don’t want a life of Norfolk, Lincolnshire or Northern Scotland. Such things can be a tough sell. And being moved around just exacerbates the problem.

​​​​​​​Let’s also remember that FJ flying is not screaming around at low level and dropping old school bombs any more.

Aside from whatever reasons may be cited, what else does Chinook have that other fleets don’t? Odiham. Stability at one base and close to the hub that is London.

Youngsters nowadays face a real struggle to ever put down roots and get on the housing ladder. 10-20 years in the military just doesn’t seem like the solution that it once did. Especially since the housing offer and additional benefits have been eroded so significantly.

When I came out of training I’d have gladly gone wherever I was sent. And then bought a house. If I were coming out of training now the choice of location would come above the choice of aircraft. A sad reality for many.

BV
Old 27th Nov 2023, 21:01
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Perhaps instead of the other fleets being crewed by FJ drop outs, they’re crewed by people who want to be there?
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Old 27th Nov 2023, 21:43
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I knew a young lad that was accepted in but never took it up after his date was deferred, He wanted to fly transports and stated that all along, I tried to tell him he needed to say FJ as that it what the RAF wanted and would then stream those that didn’t make the grade onto transport or rotary, but he was adamant and stuck to his guns with Transport and was accepted.
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Old 27th Nov 2023, 21:53
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Originally Posted by alfred_the_great
Perhaps instead of the other fleets being crewed by FJ drop outs, they’re crewed by people who want to be there?
Back in the day (70's) (when my uncle went through the RAAF) they put new pilots into fast jets then after a few years flying them and not killing themselves they would move them into transport role

Now from what I have been told they are selected at flight school based on temperament and personality either to go fast jet or transport/support.
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 04:29
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Friend went to Oz recruiting wanting to join the Army and fly helicopters. Recruiter told him the RAAF have helicopters, why not join them. He declined on the basis that they may place him onto some other type. We'll guarantee you fly helicopters in the RAAF if that's what you want. So he did, after a combat tour he was posted to the last Sabre course, when they were disposed of went to Mirage.

Other RAAF chaps I know who went to helos off course went to C-130, one of whom flew the first RAAF C-130 to Antarctica and the other the last C-130 out of Saigon.
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 06:41
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The whole "surely you want to fly jets" thing was widespread when I joined, but largely disappeared during Afghanistan, with (according to some EFT QFI friends) more folks wanting rotary than jet.

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Old 28th Nov 2023, 10:29
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We had a guy on one of my Squadrons had a music degree and was a qualified teacher of music, he wanted to join as a musician, RAF told him there were no vacancies, but if you join as an armourer you will be able to change trades once in.... Result, a very pissed off armourer several years later, as you could not drop trade groups, only go up. It happens to all trades apparently.
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 11:14
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With such thread drift my tale is another along these lines.

When I was interviewed for the RAF the question was inevitably asked, 'if we give you a pilot selection, what would you want to fly'. When I naturally answered helicopters the panel just about fell off their chairs, no-one in 1967 wanted to be a helicopter driver!

I did explain how much better it was than running up and down runways to get airborne, but they used my eyesight as an excuse to offer me a ground job anyway. Fortunately by an enormous set of coincidences I discovered the RN accepted helicopter pilots with 6/18 eyesight and got into Dartmouth that way. Two weeks after joining I was shown a DCI upping the eyesight standard for rotary wing drivers; they closed the loophole after my medical highlighted it. The Surgeon Commander had never heard of it before and had been rejecting applicants accordingly!
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 16:48
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Originally Posted by pba_target
The whole "surely you want to fly jets" thing was widespread when I joined, but largely disappeared during Afghanistan, with (according to some EFT QFI friends) more folks wanting rotary than jet.
At the height of Afghanistan in about 2009/2010 I visited Odiham, and was told by the then Chinook Force Commander, Gp Capt Turner, that 80% of student pilots at Cranwell were requesting the Chinook.
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 17:07
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Location, Location, Location.

It would appear there is a familiar theme developing. It seems many Air Forces struggle from with same problem. Location.

It is never considered by those in charge but it plays a huge factor in the recruitment of a generation that are far better informed than their predecessors. I include my generation in that before anyone things I’m slinging mud unnecessarily.

In Canada very few students wanted to go FJs when I was there. They didn’t want a life in Cold Lake or Bagotville. Omani students don’t all want a life in Thumrait or Adam. And now Brit students seemingly don’t want a life of Norfolk, Lincolnshire or Northern Scotland. Such things can be a tough sell. And being moved around just exacerbates the problem.

​​​​​​​Let’s also remember that FJ flying is not screaming around at low level and dropping old school bombs any more.

Aside from whatever reasons may be cited, what else does Chinook have that other fleets don’t? Odiham. Stability at one base and close to the hub that is London.

Youngsters nowadays face a real struggle to ever put down roots and get on the housing ladder. 10-20 years in the military just doesn’t seem like the solution that it once did. Especially since the housing offer and additional benefits have been eroded so significantly.

When I came out of training I’d have gladly gone wherever I was sent. And then bought a house. If I were coming out of training now the choice of location would come above the choice of aircraft. A sad reality for many.

BV
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 17:27
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Originally Posted by melmothtw
At the height of Afghanistan in about 2009/2010 I visited Odiham, and was told by the then Chinook Force Commander, Gp Capt Turner, that 80% of student pilots at Cranwell were requesting the Chinook.
They weren't alone.

When the RAF realised they were short of engineers, again !, and the AMM recruitment drive expanded, many had the aspiration to become a Chinook crewman, and many applied for Odiham as their first choice posting.

Odiham actually had a policy of treating their AMM''s very well, not just tyre kickers like the FJ world, because they wanted them back when they became techs.

This policy worked .
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 17:58
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Originally Posted by John Eacott
With such thread drift my tale is another along these lines.

When I was interviewed for the RAF the question was inevitably asked, 'if we give you a pilot selection, what would you want to fly'. When I naturally answered helicopters the panel just about fell off their chairs, no-one in 1967 wanted to be a helicopter driver!

I did explain how much better it was than running up and down runways to get airborne, but they used my eyesight as an excuse to offer me a ground job anyway. Fortunately by an enormous set of coincidences I discovered the RN accepted helicopter pilots with 6/18 eyesight and got into Dartmouth that way. Two weeks after joining I was shown a DCI upping the eyesight standard for rotary wing drivers; they closed the loophole after my medical highlighted it. The Surgeon Commander had never heard of it before and had been rejecting applicants accordingly!
1967 and not wanting to be rotary?? Back then I was flying the Wessex in Aden, and enjoying the "licenced hooliganism"
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 18:25
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Thanks for the replies chaps but no-one has actually answered the question……yet. Of course it was all different in ‘our day’ but what of now - is it still FJ until the system decides otherwise and how far into the training system do you have to go before multi or rotary becomes an option ?
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 18:58
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It's a bit telling that so much change has happened so quickly that nobody has yet supplied the answer. The most recent factual information that I knew before retiring is summarised in this link.

https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/articles...aining-school/

This was three years ago. L3 Harris stopped providing training and everything, to my knowledge, went to Ascent, as stated in Wiki with other references. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascent_Flight_Training

Whenever MFTS was mentioned [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Mil...raining_System ] people were still going apoplectic and spitting feathers.

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Old 28th Nov 2023, 20:22
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The role of a typical Advanced Flying School 70 years ago:
The Training Task at Merryfield

The student pilot arriving at Merryfield has already completed comprehensive flying courses in Chipmunk or Prentice, and Harvard or Balliol aircraft; some may have flown the Lockheed Silver Star jet trainer as well. He may have been given this training in Canada or the United Kingdom, but in either case, he has been awarded his “Wings” and a commission. His commission may be for four or eight years, or he may be a National Service Officer nearing the end of his two-year period; in a few cases he will be a graduate from the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, serving as a Permanently Commissioned Officer.

It is the task of this station to train these officers to fly Vampire aircraft, and for most it will be their first experience of “jets”. By the end of their course here they must reach near perfection in pure flying because at the next stage of training - the Operational Conversion Unit - they will learn to fly their aircraft as a weapon of war. Preoccupation with aiming and firing guns, and dropping bombs, means that accurate flying in any weather must be instinctive.

This aim is achieved at Merryfield by particular concentration on flying on instruments and in formation - the tactical battle deployment of the fighter aircraft. It goes without saying that to achieve the standard required (and this standard is continually being raised) the student pilot must bring undivided concentration to bear on his work. The Hunters, Swifts and Sabres which he will shortly be flying, are too precious and too exacting to be entrusted to any but the very best pilots.

The Vampire we use as a trainer here to-day, was the front line aircraft of yesterday. And so it will be in their turn with the super-priority fighters just coming into service; the last word of to-day is the common-place of the near future. Such is the inexorable rapidity of aircraft development. The machines exact more of the pilots; the pilots must be trained to meet the demands. That is the task at Merryfield.
As for helicopters, during a particularly stressful day at RAF Brawdy early in my Hunter course, our jovial flight commander joked whilst making a cup of coffee in the crewroom "Of course if this is all a bit too much for you, you can always ask to go to helicopters!". Two of my colleagues took him at his word and the next thing we knew they were off the station to start their new courses.....

.....as navigator students!
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 21:19
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Originally Posted by BEagle
The role of a typical Advanced Flying School 70 years ago:

As for helicopters, during a particularly stressful day at RAF Brawdy early in my Hunter course, our jovial flight commander joked whilst making a cup of coffee in the crewroom "Of course if this is all a bit too much for you, you can always ask to go to helicopters!". Two of my colleagues took him at his word and the next thing we knew they were off the station to start their new courses.....

.....as navigator students!
and what has that got to do with the original question ?
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 22:21
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Originally Posted by beamer
Thanks for the replies chaps but no-one has actually answered the question……yet. Of course it was all different in ‘our day’ but what of now - is it still FJ until the system decides otherwise and how far into the training system do you have to go before multi or rotary becomes an option ?
Students are streamed after EFT (Tutors / Prefects). Preferences can be expressed but of course, “The needs of the service are paramount” . Once streamed every course failure will be dealt with on its merits with re streaming being one option. After a tour or so in any role a change is possible but rare and, of course, “The needs of the service………”
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Old 28th Nov 2023, 22:24
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Originally Posted by RetiredBA/BY
and what has that got to do with the original question ?
Very little but It strongly suggests that his "jovial flight commander" was a bit of a £*&!
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Old 29th Nov 2023, 07:08
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Originally Posted by Timelord
Students are streamed after EFT (Tutors / Prefects). Preferences can be expressed but of course, “The needs of the service are paramount” . Once streamed every course failure will be dealt with on its merits with re streaming being one option. After a tour or so in any role a change is possible but rare and, of course, “The needs of the service………”
and if the needs of the service require an entire course to go multi off they go.

it’s no longer everyone start as FJ and chop for job security and send them to multi.


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Old 29th Nov 2023, 10:11
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I have a friend at work who is an ex-RAF rotary pilot. At the end of his EFT, the whole course, (12 students) had their streaming board, and most wanted FJ naturally. They all had high hopes as they had attained high CBAT scores and got very good reports from EFT.

The briefing before the streaming board started was a bit of a shock. "There are no FJ training slots currently available, so before you go in front of the board, decide now if you want to bid for multi-engine or rotary?"

He was incredibly p!ssed off to find out that on the EFT course that followed, FJ needed 8 of the 10 students, and multi took the other 2. He also knew for a fact that of the 8 that were streamed FJ all but one had worse CBAT scores than he did!

It really is pot luck what you end up flying nowadays, and the best pilots don't necessarily end up flying FJ.
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