• RAF Officer Branch: Pilot

TSR Wiki > Careers > Career Options > Armed Forces Careers > The Royal Air Force > Pilot

Here we have a number of questions people have asked on the forums. They are common questions, so have a read through - there will be an answer to something you want to know about the RAF!


Question 1

I am interested in becoming a fast jet pilot. I am only 14 but am dedicated to getting into the RAF. What should I do next, like join the air cadets or a certain group? What subjects are best to take at school?

Firstly, there is no single right way of preparing yourself for a career in the Royal Air Force as a pilot or for any of the other 70 careers that we offer. What is more important is that you achieve a certain minimum standard of education, normally 2 A' Levels for officer entry (3 highers in Scotland) and you are the right person for the career you want (all pilots enter at officer level).

Having said that, the Air Training Corps is a fantastic youth organisation that offers you a real insight into the Royal Air Force. On summer camps, you fly in RAF aircraft and gliders and it lets you get a taste of RAF life before you apply for the real thing.

Even if there is no ATC squadron nearby I would recommend that you take every opportunity to develop yourself; get involved with school or community groups, keep yourself fit and above all pursue your goal with determination.

When you eventually get to RAF Cranwell for Officer and Aircrew Selection you are going to have to convince some senior officers that you are the right person to be a leader in the Royal Air Force and are capable of being trusted with some serious military hardware!

Question 2

I've wanted to be a fast jet pilot since I can remember but I have glasses, so can I join? There has been a lot mentioned about the RAF relaxing standards on short sightedness and allowing candidates entry with laser eye surgery but nothing is definite. Any advice would be great!

I am afraid that entry standards for medical, educational and personal standards are very strict and currently your need to wear glasses would prevent your selection for pilot. Although I can imagine that this must be a huge disappointment to you there are a lot of other careers that may interest you from officer branches that take you up close to the aircraft - from our Engineering roles to controlling the action as an Air Traffic or Fighter Controller.

Similarly there are many airmen trades that offer challenging work and an interesting career that could not be described as routine or run of the mill. For example RAF Regiment Gunners serve all over the world defending our airfields on Field Squadrons and are equipped with the Rapier missile system. They also serve on ceremonial duties at the Royal Palaces and in high profile public roles as members of the Queen's Colour Squadron.

Question 3

I've wanted to work with jets ever since I can remember. I want to go to university to study aeronautical engineering and would like to try and get a scholarship to the RAF. Does anyone know how to go about it, as where I live there are only Army centres.

Your first point of call should be the Royal Air Force Careers website at www.rafcareers.com, which has a huge amount of information on tap. You should also look in the Yellow Pages under 'Armed Services' for your nearest RAF Careers Office, many of which are co-located with Royal Navy and Army offices.

You can qualify for sponsorship to the tune of £5,500 a year through the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS) if you're studying Engineering or a related subject at the universities of Southampton, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumbria or Aston. The scheme will also start at Loughborough University in 2005. In return, you will be asked to become a member of the University Support Unit, spending at least 45 days a year with the RAF - and to join the RAF once you finish your studies.

If you're at another university, you can apply for a University Bursary of £4,000 a year. And if you're in the Sixth Form, you can qualify for a Sixth Form Scholarship of £2,000. In return, we ask you to become a member of the University Air Squadron (or Air Training Corps while you're at school) and to join the RAF once you finish your studies.

Question 4

I'm 14 and have wanted to be a fast jet pilot for years, but I'm a girl and I don't know if girls can do that. I want to know what it's like for girls to join the RAF and what we have to do? Also, I want to find out what subjects I should take in school to become a pilot?

If you want to be a pilot then it's up to you to go for it, it doesn't matter if you are a girl. As you may have seen in the programme we have three female Flying Instructors at RAF Valley and they are highly professional, respected officers. They have got where they are today on merit and ability and that's what we demand of everyone irrespective of gender, sexuality, religion, marital status or race.

There are lots of flying related careers available including Pilot, Weapons System Operator and Air Loadmaster to name but three. There is only one career opportunity that is not available to women and that is RAF Regiment Gunner.

Good Luck.

You need a B grade in maths and (A-C) inEnglish at GCSE level and at least 2 (A-C) A' Levels to become a pilot. You don't have to have a university degree, though it can help you when applying to join. It doesn't really matter which subject you take your degree in, though if you want to be an RAF engineer you should study engineering.

Question 5

I would like to be a helicopter pilot in the RAF after university. When you join the RAF do you get to chose if you fly planes or helicopters and can you leave before you complete your term of service?

You are clearly focused on what you want to do and have a specific flying goal. The officer and aircrew selection process is quite sophisticated and aims to identify individuals who have the potential to succeed in their chosen careers but it does not distinguish different pilot specialisations at that stage.

Once you've completed initial flying training, assuming that you have not been a member of a University Air Squadron, you would be selected for the fast-jet, multi-engine or rotary-wing streams depending on your strengths and ability.

If you are chosen to follow the helicopter path your duties might include anything from search and rescue flights to ferrying troops and equipment into combat zones and is very challenging.

There are a number of circumstances in which members of the Royal Air Force may leave before they have completed their commissions or engagements but the waiting times can be lengthy (up to 18 months) and we would expect a satisfactory return upon the extremely expensive training that is provided. For a pilot this is 12 years.

Might I suggest that if you make it to interview, this is a question that may not exactly fill the officers who are interviewing you with the greatest confidence about your commitment to a career in the Royal Air Force!

Question 6

Can you become a pilot if you're older than the stated 17.5 - 25 years of age?

I am afraid that entry standards and criteria are (necessarily) very strict and they are not normally varied beyond the laid down limits which exist to ensure that candidates have the best possible chance to succeed in training and the opportunity to pursue a full career. There are occasional dispensations made to individuals who are already in the Royal Air Force, but these would be granted only to those who are already in a flying appointment of some sort and are deemed to have a reasonable chance of success. Thirty-eight year old Dave McBryde is a good example.

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