Squadron Leader Chris Pearson and Flight Lieutenant Jamie Bell are the first to partake in a trial which may provide an alternative training pipeline pathway to flying a fast jet. Having achieved their wings in under a year, both pilots will now progress onto the Hawk T2 with 25(F) Squadron at RAF Valley later in the summer. In so doing they may pave the way for future fast jet pilots to earn their wings at RAF College Cranwell.
The two pilots began Elementary Flying Training (EFT) with 57 Squadron at RAFC Cranwell in May 2019. Upon successful completion of EFT and after being streamed for Fast Jet, they were selected to partake in a novel collaboration between the RAF and Ascent Flight Training, the Prefect-direct to-Hawk initiative.
Part of a wider review aimed at streamlining how student pilots reach the front line, pilot training will also in future place greater emphasis on synthetic training with virtual reality, mixed reality and 360 degree video training aids blended with piloting of aircraft. Students may also follow different pathways dependent on the aircraft type they are destined to fly on the front line.
Flight Lieutenant Bell, from Bristol, joined the RAF in 2016. He went on to hold at RAF Leeming with Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron (NUAS) where he experienced his first ever flight. Squadron Leader Pearson, from Poole, joined the RAF in 2004 and served as a Tornado Navigator on the Tornado F3 and GR4, becoming a Weapons Instructor in 2014. He was one of a small number of Navigators selected for Pilot training post Tornado withdrawal from service.
Flying training has continued at a reduced rate during lockdown with all reasonable precautions taken to protect personnel, including social distancing precautions. The training has focussed on supporting the front line to ensure we have people ready for operations and are able to sustain our commitments.