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The facts

Job description

You’ll fly jets, multi-engine aircraft or helicopters in air-to-air combat and human aid missions.



Pay after training


Joining age

17.5 - 25

Similar civilian jobs

  • Commercial airline pilot
  • Pilot trainer
  • Commercial helicopter pilot

Usual service

12 Years


UK citizen or holder of dual UK/other nationality

Open to

male or female

Qualifications you need

2 A-levels (at grade A-C) or 3 Highers or equivalent, plus 5 GCSE/SCEs at Grade C/2 minimum or equivalent including English Language and grade B/1 in Maths or 5 SNEs at Grade 5 including English Language and Maths. Please note: the RAF does not accept A-levels in Critical Thinking or General Studies at any grade.

Qualifications you can gain

Degree or Masters degree


Whether or not you were born in the United Kingdom, you should have resided there for the five years immediately preceding your application.

The job

Your role as a pilot can be as varied and exciting as the aircraft you might fly.

Once you’ve completed the demands of elementary flying training, you’ll be selected to enter either the fast jet, multi-engine or helicopter training streams.

You will then be taken through your paces at the various specialist Flying Training Schools. If successful you will become a qualified operational front line pilot.

As the pilot of a Typhoon, your primary role will be air-to-air combat or ground attack. In a C-17 transport aircraft, you could be sent anywhere in the world on military support or humanitarian aid missions.

Flying a helicopter could involve anything from ferrying troops into combat zones to carrying out search and rescue missions.

Your First Tour

During your first tour, you’ll probably be detached overseas for anything from a few days to a few months. You could fly on a training exercise in allied airspace or carry out your role on operations over hostile territory.

I do this job


Guy Lockwood

'Being on the front line and flying one of the best fast jets in the world is a real privilege.'

My role

‘My job at the moment is working as one of the Squadron pilots bringing the Typhoon into active service. To begin with, it will be involved in quick reaction alert, which means intercepting unknown aircraft in British airspace.

‘Then, in the near future, it’s going to be a multi-role aircraft and will be deployable in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground roles. As a Typhoon pilot, I’ll be sent wherever the aircraft is deployed.’

My day

‘When we arrive at work, we’ll get together for a met brief and find out about the day’s weather, aircraft serviceability and the flying programme. Then we get into the planning cycle which takes place two to three hours before take off.

‘Every aircraft has a “brick” that contains data for each mission. We load this during our planning, get a map and take a brief from the formation leader on the day’s tactics. We also brief the Fighter Controllers and any other formations we’re working with that day.

‘We get an out-brief before we fly, just in case there have been any changes with the weather, the aircraft or the airfield, and then we get changed. This takes about 10 minutes in winter because you’ve got an immersion suit, thermal layers, a g-suit and flight jacket.

‘Most sorties last for about an hour and a half, depending on what we’re doing. Once we land we have a debrief – usually playing tapes to show what happened in the cockpit.

‘Once that’s done, you have to deal with your secondary duties and any admin, and then hopefully head to the gym. It’s quite physically demanding to fly the aircraft so it’s good to get down to the gym as often as you can.’

My experiences

‘I became a qualified ski instructor after joining the Air Force. I found myself in between flying courses a couple of times and when this happened in the winter, I was able to take people away on adventurous training. I still do that sometimes, but much more infrequently now that I’m on the front line.’

My life

‘I know friends and family who’ve struggled to find out what it is they want to do in life, but for me, the fact that the RAF combines the outdoor life with plenty of challenges in the workplace makes it the best of both worlds.’


Initial Officer Training

Like all our officers, you’ll begin your RAF career with Initial Officer Training (IOT) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

You’ll follow a challenging 30-week course designed to develop your leadership and management skills. The course includes fitness development, military training and academic study as well as practical outdoor leadership challenges.

Specialist Training

Your specialist training begins with Elementary Flying Training, flying the Tutor aircraft. You’ll then be streamed to fast jet, multi-engine or rotary.


Fast-jet training lasts 21 months and you’ll initially fly the Tucano at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, after which you will be awarded your pilot ‘Wings’.

You’ll then go on to fly the Hawk at RAF Valley and, after successful completion of the tactical weapons phase, you’ll go to an Operational Conversion Unit, where you’ll train on the specific aircraft you’ll be flying in a front-line role.


The training to fly multi-engine aircraft is 10 months long, during which you’ll fly both the Tutor and the King Air at RAFC Cranwell.

You’ll then be awarded your pilot ‘wings’ and go to an Operational Conversion Unit to train on the aircraft that you’ll be flying operationally.


If you are streamed to rotary you will spend 18-months flying both single-engine Squirrel helicopters and multi-engine Griffin helicopters at RAF Shawbury. After your training, you’ll be awarded your pilot ‘wings’.

You’ll then go to an Operational Conversion Unit where you’ll train on the helicopter you’ll be flying operationally.

Your future

Career prospects

You’ll join the RAF on either a Short Service Commission of up to 12 years, or on a Permanent Commission that will normally require a minimum of 18 years service.

Promotion to the rank of flight lieutenant is on a time served/satisfactory service basis.

Further promotion to squadron leader and above is by competitive selection.

Transferable skills

The skills and experience you gain throughout your career as a pilot in the RAF could equip you for a number of civilian jobs, including: commercial airline pilot; pilot trainer; and commercial helicopter pilot.

Ongoing Development

As a pilot, you’ll have extensive opportunities for further professional development throughout your career.

As well as training to fly different aircraft at Operational Conversion Units, there are opportunities for structured command and staff training as your career progresses.

Apply now

Call us on

0845 605 5555

  • Mon-Fri8am to 8pm
  • Sat9am to 6pm
  • Sun10am to 4pm
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