In the RAF
‘As a Survival Equipment Fitter, my job is geared around saving aircrew. I now work on emergency escape parachutes. A couple of mine have been used so I’ve actually saved two lives. The aircrew came into the section with a crate of beer, so that gave me a great sense of satisfaction.’
‘At the moment, I work with aircrew on conversion courses for the Search and Rescue Sea King helicopter and we supply all their equipment.
Part of the helicopter winchman’s training involves going into the sea to rescue people. We’ll go out to inflate the dinghies for them, but also act as survivors to be winched out of the water. It’s a good experience!’
Darren, Survival Equipment Specialist
Your career will start with a 10-week Basic Recruit Training Course (BRTC) at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. The course is designed to help you to adjust to a military environment. As well as fitness and military training, you will also learn about life in the RAF.
The next step is a specialist training course at Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering Cosford, near Wolverhampton, which lasts 35 weeks. The course will provide you with the underpinning knowledge of SE and AEA used in a military environment. You will learn the principles of engineering and maintenance of parachutes, life rafts, aircrew equipment assemblies including night vision and oxygen systems. You will also be taught the basic skills of mechanical and electrical engineering to underpin your trade knowledge. On successful completion of trade training, you will be promoted to Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) and posted to your first tour.
Additional Qualification Opportunities
During Specialist Training you will gain Functional Skills Level 2 in Maths and English, a Level 3 Tech Cert Diploma and, on graduation, you will be enrolled on an NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering; on successful completion of this, you will be awarded your Advanced Apprenticeship. As new equipment and aircraft enter Service, the aim is to accredit specialist training, to ensure that you hold recognised civilian qualifications as part of your career development.
Ongoing Training/Development Opportunities
Throughout your career, we will continue to train you and provide you with through Service career development. There are also opportunities to undertake management and leadership training required for promotion and to join the relevant civilian professional associations and bodies. Furthermore, you will be able to employ your new found military and leadership skills on various adventure training expeditions and exercises across the world.
There are also opportunities to work within the Airborne Forces environment, providing parachute equipment and parachute delivery systems to assist our Special Forces in their specialised training; this could involve working on an active parachute drop zone both in the UK or deployed overseas. You may become a part of a specialist pool or sea-drill team, providing instruction and assistance to aircrew practicing their survival drills at a specialist pool or out at sea. For this reason, all SE and AEA specialists are trained and tested to pass the RAF Swimming Competency Test and you may also be given the opportunity to undertake further survival training courses.
As you gain more experience and undertake specialist courses you could be offered employment in other specialist niches such as Aviation Medicine, which includes the following areas:
Aircrew Equipment Integration Group. Undertaking the development, trials, testing and aircraft integration of all new and technologically enhanced SE and AEA coming into Service.
Aircraft Accident Investigation Department. Providing expert advice in support of aircraft accident investigations and determining causes of equipment failure.
You could also undertake the role of an instructor, training either new recruits during basic trade training or providing specialist training to aircrew or other SE Fitt tradesmen.
Your First Tour
After your initial recruit and trade training, you will be assigned to a UK unit where, under supervision, you will apply your newly gained skills in a live environment adding immediate value to the RAF. Once your experience builds and you demonstrate the required competence levels, supervision will be reduced and promotion to Senior Aircraftsman can be achieved. This could be the start of more promotion opportunities that could be achieved through your hard work.
Your Future Career Prospects and Progression
You will initially join the RAF for a period of twelve years on a Notice Engagement with effect from 1 April 2015. After completing one year’s total service, you will be eligible for promotion to Senior Aircraftman, providing you pass a Trade Ability Test and Basic Trade Training. As your skill levels, professionalism and leadership potential develop further promotion to the rank of Corporal and beyond is on merit by competitive selection. As you advance through the ranks, you will have the increased opportunity to lead and direct your subordinates, managing resources and manpower within your area of work to deliver the required outputs whilst maintaining and instilling the highest standards expected within the RAF.
The qualifications, experience and skill-sets that you develop as a specialist in SE and AEA are recognised and highly regarded in civilian industry as they are in the RAF, which means that should you ever decide to pursue a career outside the RAF, you will be well placed to find employment.
GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or above in English Language
GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or above in Maths
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 or above in English
SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 or above in Mathematics.
- 16–30 (Must attest before 30th birthday)
To join the RAF you will also need to meet fitness, health, nationality, residency, and other criteria detailed below.