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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Royal Air Force


My friend Alex Wood, from Brazil, has recently looked into another option to fulfill his dream of learning to fly. He, like many of us, is figuring out the best avenue to realize his dream within his resources available. And what should he come upon? —The Royal Air Force.

An amazing opportunity? I think yes.

Alex Wood says…

“Commonly known as RAF, the Royal Air Force was formed in 1918, and it is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF has taken a significant role in British military history, playing a large part in the World War II and in more recent conflicts.

Is one of the most capable and technologically sophisticated in the world. In 2012, 827 airplanes were operated, making it the largest air force in the European Union, and the second largest in terms of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) after the USAF. Most RAF aircraft and personnel are based in the UK, with many others serving in the Middle-East and recently in Libya.

Everyone one that has British citizenship can apply and be part of the team. I mean, everyone, from all kinds of backgrounds. They accept even people with the lowest academic grades. There are more than 50 different type of careers, but it isn't everyone that can become a pilot. To be an Airman/Airwoman you have to hold 5 GCSE grades from A-C, and A-Levels from A-C as well, with Bs on math and English. However, they do accept applicants with Cs on math. 

Not only a good grading is necessary, but you have to be fit to start applying (not like an athlete, but capable of resisting duty programs). Also, not only UK residents are eligible, but residents from countries that has, at least dual British nationality, or has part in the European Economic Zone and the Commonwealth can apply for a job either. For those who are interested in the salary, they are high, and for pilots, the monthly salary after training is approximately £34.700. 

The minimum age requirements for eligibility is 17 years old. When accepted, you will have to undertake very high-standard training sessions.

Certified by Queen Elizabeth II, and one of the most respected in the world, the RAF also has their own aerobatic team—The Red Arrows. Appreciated for their formation, they did an astonishing performance at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, and at the Queen's Golden Jubilee (escorting a British Airways Concorde fly-over). The team has a large fleet of the Hawk T1A powered by Rolls Royce. The Hawk T1A reaches 42.000ft in less than 10 minutes!

A large variety of transport aircraft are also in the fleet. C-17 Globemaster III, VC10, Hercules, A400M, A330, A340, small transport aircraft. But the Airman/Airwoman cannot select where he/she wants to be. During the selection process, the recruiters will check where do you fit according to your height, weight, fitness and aptitude (in general).

Personally, I think applying for your national air force is a good idea to start a career in aviation. After 12 years of service, you can apply for a job in an Airline Company. Some airlines are recruiting pilots from the armed forces, an example is British Airways. Not only because it may be a differential in your curriculum, but it will build up your own confidence and many skills such as maneuvers, emergency procedures and intellectual skills, which are more than a requirement nowadays. Also, if you don't have financial conditions to pay a course, the air force may be a great option. 

Please, let's make 1 minute of silence in honor of the heroes that have lost their lives in combat.  

Are you interested in joining the RAF? Do you meet all the requirements? Check out their website HERE. And if you want to join your national air force, contact your local office or apply on their website.

Hope you enjoyed the journey,
Alex Wood

Alex… Thank you for a great post!!! I enjoyed the journey and know when, and if, you go this route we’ll be hearing much more about it. Thank you! 

XOX Karlene


  1. This is an outstanding post. I also think that no matter what area of the industry you go into, the Air Force is essential and for sure getting into the airlines will be rest assured this way. My flight instructor is living proof of how much of an Air Force education will do. He is one of the top trained Israeli Air Force pilots and I couldn't have asked for anything better. In my humble opinion, I whole heartledly wish this for you and so much success for a I know you will not only instill a sense of skill and confidence to be a safe pilot but also make Her Royal Majesty proud. Cheers!

    1. Thank you so much for the wonderful comment Jeremy. I know this will mean a lot to Alex, as it does me. I too hope all his dreams come true.

    2. Jeremy, thank you SO much! Wow, your words gave me strength! This means a lot to me. Cheers! :D

  2. Very interesting! The RAF is legendary, and it's great to get the inside scoop on what's involved for someone to join and become a member--and especially a pilot. I had no idea the job would be that high-paid, either. wow.

    1. Thank you for the comment Linda. I had no idea either. I think this is the perfect solution for Alex to fulfill his dreams.

    2. Thank you, Linda! I agree with you, and I thought it would be essential to join the air force before joining the commercial field. I didn't know it was so high-paid either! But it's fair enough. :D

  3. "Certified by the Queen..."? What kind of a check-ride does she give? Just because she parachuted with James Bond (Mark VI?) into the Olympic Stadium doesn't quite qualify HRE Herself to sign-off on a aerobatic Qual-Card I think...though I bet the CVR would be a best-seller.
    It is like forming a government based on a sword given from some moist aquatic mermaid...(cue Monty Python..)
    She would be qualified to give a checkout in a Land Rover though being a certified Land Rover mechanic during WW2.
    And the RAF's catch-phrase? "Second to none"

    Tim TDY MT

    1. I'm thinking it is a great honor for the Queen to certify the pilots. A proud moment for those young aviators.

      Besides... honor and tradition does not imply training. Technically the US government, ie., the FAA certifies our licenses, not the people who train and check us. So much to be said on that note.

      So all I can say is... there is something noble in their process. Something that our industry and pilots are losing: Pride.

    2. Hi Tim,

      First of all, thank you for sharing your idea and for commenting.

      There are many things that are certified by the Queen. The Royal Mail is an example, and means if someone interferes on the mailers jobs, she will use all her power against the person that is interfering. Even British Airways is certified.

      The thing is, her certification doesn't have anything to do with flight training or whatever you were thinking, but she protects her castle and what's inside. On the other hand, the idea of certification makes the British people feel safe indirectly. Also, it gives something a status of high importance.

      Karlene is right, it is an honor for the Queen to do such action. It also means respect and pride to the soldiers and, believe or not, to the British people.

      And yes, we are experiencing a huge aviation crisis, something that our pilots are losing is Pride.

      Tim, with all my respect, but she didn't parachuted with James Bond at the ceremony, she's too old for that. And this post hadn't any political intentions.


    3. Not so fast...Look at your ticket is "signed" by the Administrator of the FAA (it is line VIII on the lil' Blue Card)so 'technically' he or she issues /authorizes the certificate.

      As far as losing 'Pride' in "Proud" of the profession-there is fodder for a weeks worth of blog right there. Not sure if we are 'losing' it or it is being taken away by the media, un-informed 'experts' and the gap between what was, what is and what it should be.
      You weren't around when the Red Tail had the "People, Pride, Performance..The Northwest Professional Team" decals-I had one on my brain-bag and I believe it. (of course when we got 'Republic' we added a fourth "P" for "Props" due to the Convair 580s...).
      "Noble"? As in...?
      Tim (TDY MT)

    4. Ahhh... define administrator. It's all in perspective. But...

      Pride is something that cannot be taken. This is one of those things that another person has no control over, as pride comes from within.

      The job is stripped? The pay is cut? The pensions lost? The red rubbed off the tail? I can still feel pride in doing a good job. Pride in accomplishment. Pride in providing for my family. And yes, if the case is such... Pride that the Queen has certified my certificate. More than pride...

      Happiness also comes from within. So does our attitude. These are among the very few things we have control over. We have the choice to feel and think the way we want. Nobody can force feelings.

      Alex, well said. I still find it hard to believe that you're not 17 yet. But soon.

  4. Our Brothers overseas.. We always have your back.. and you Ours.. Thanks...

    P.S. ( are you guys still mad we won the war... Revolutiary War.. ?? =) Just old bar joke... when we would meet someone from England...) We love the Brits... Thanks for the Great information.

    1. Yes... so true! We always do have their back.

      And for sure this is great information. If I could, I would have joined the RAF!

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. I think this is a great way to enter the skies! If I'd had 20-20 vision when I was young, I would have become a USAF pilot and probably had a career in aviation, either military or civilian. Alas, they wouldn't accept my contact lenses.

    1. Ahhh... that is so sad. And now, we have pilots flying with glasses and contact lenses. Many kids thought they couldn't fly for the airlines when then didn't have perfect vision. Mainly the military and AA rules. But it's all about supply and demand. Now you could least on the civilian side.


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