View Full Version : Retention Solution

Seven of Nine
2nd Aug 2001, 22:57
Just read the latest newsletter from PMA and I see that they have come up with a cunning solution to the retention problem - extension of service to age 60. I've got nothing against oldies (other than they smell of wee) but rumour has it that we are a military organisation and may be called upon to fight - are 55+ year olds really the sort of people we should be trying to retain? Seems like a desperate measure to me.

2nd Aug 2001, 23:33
One sixty year old in the cockpit is going to fly a lot further than an empty jet??????

Gash Handlin
2nd Aug 2001, 23:40
Seven Of Nine,

Are these not desperate times then??

If someone is capable of doing the job at 55, why won't they be capable of it at 60?

And without meaning any disrespect to the more senior aircrew, or any particular fleet, how many 55 year old frontline aircrew are there?

3rd Aug 2001, 05:44
I know of at least one regular poster on this forum who must be close to 55. You know who you are :D .

5th Aug 2001, 00:01
I can confirm that the air trialling of incontenance pants and stain-resistant trousers is now underway. The VC10 sims are being retro-fitted with aerosols to provide that unique Eau d'Urine ambiance.

Hengist Pod
5th Aug 2001, 14:15
Are there lots of ginger blokes on tens then?

SARBoy Loser
10th Aug 2001, 18:13
Service to 60! I was just looking forward to the air at a certain Yorkshire SAR flt losing that 'elderly' ambiance, anyway who wants to watch a geriatric try and load a fat lass onto a strecher for laughs?


now where's that cup of cocoa gone?

Flatus Veteranus
10th Aug 2001, 22:42

Make it 75 and I'm your bloke! And I reckon I could still outfly most of the whippersnappers, whingers and w**nkers on this site! Moaning at 20 hours/month on "fast" jets! (I thought the NATO standard was 25 hours/month). At Middleton in the '50s 40/50 hrs a month was usual - in an unpressurised jet (Meteor T7) with a normal sortie length of 45 mins max. My "longest day" was 5 intructional sorties by day followed by three at night.

11th Aug 2001, 00:23
I know I shouldn't do this - getting hooked by flatus 'n' all but I just can't stop myself (nothing to do with the happy hour beer, obviously).

Firstly "fast" jets. If you think the meteor is the be all and end all of speed then ok. We're not in the 70s any more.

8 sorties in a day? full and comprehensive brief and debrief? Maximum amount learnt by all? Sorry, what was the accident rate back in the good old days?

It would probably be best if a person of your obvious experience commented on matters that you are obviosly very knowledgeable about (such as the RAF 1950-1980) and stayed away from any threads that have anything to do with the 21st century. No offence.

Have a good weekend everyone :)

ps NATO standard is 15 hours, still +/- 60% not bad.

11th Aug 2001, 03:57

I was actually thinking of BEagle :D, sorry mein fuhrer beags.

As a former Meteor pilot, you may be able to answer a question for me. Was Worksop the first operational RAF jet fighter base? Did you ever fly from there? It's just I live about 4 miles down the road from Worksop in Retford :).

Tim http://www.stopstart.fsnet.co.uk/smilie/cheers.gif

11th Aug 2001, 12:02
OK TimC - I am indeed nearer to 55 than 45! But not by very much.

To the bloke being so rude to FlatusV, have some respect, chum! We're very lucky to have someone on this forum who can put things into context by making comparisons with earlier times. So please let's hope that FV comes back with all 4 20mm guns blazing!!

The first Meatbox squadron was formed at Trikey Warren (as we used to call 'un down in Zumazett), real name Culmhead (previously called 'Church Stanton. There were so many other 'Church' stations that this could have caused confusion!). That was 616 Sqn which worked up there for a couple of weeks in July 1944 before moving to Manston; the first jet fighter victory was scored in Aug 44 against a V-1.

No I wasn't alive at the time!!

But Trikey Warren later became a so-called 'Government Radio Station'. In the 1970s I used to use it as a low-level IP when flying the Vulcan against simulated targets in the south west. It was a belting good IP as you could see it for miles, covered in aerials and with a prominent building (housing the spooks) at one corner. Whether they enjoyed the nose of 4 Olympi at 300' (honest, officer) interrupting their conversations with 007, I don't know - but we never had any complaints!!

[ 11 August 2001: Message edited by: BEagle ]

Mach the Knife
11th Aug 2001, 14:44
Ah yes the 50's, what quality we had then. I believe 1952 was a record year for the number of aircraft lost by the RAF in peacetime. If memory serves we lost more aircraft that year than we have in service today, total. I think that included an entire squadron that ran out of fuel due to poor planning and weather. It's not the hours you put in, in what you put in the hours that counts.

Tripe Loch
11th Aug 2001, 15:32
There may have been a lot of accidents but what was rate by type, number of aircraft and total hours flown!? I think the latest Spry figures reflect that the RAF is only just under the 50's rate now.

11th Aug 2001, 15:42
In 1952, excluding aircraft in store or undergoing service or repair, the RAF had 6338 aircraft. So it woudn't have been difficult to have lost the same number as the total we have serviceable today, would it??!!

Mach the Knife
11th Aug 2001, 17:53
You were actually there weren't you Beagle?

11th Aug 2001, 18:09
Beags old mate, thanks for making that point, saves me doing it!

As for we "old bu&&ers" being incapable and incontinent, it's just possible that some of us still have a little to offer in some form or another!

Let's look at a hypothetical situation, shall we? Perhaps - somewhere - there is an Air Force that has huge retention problems and has an enormous amount of gaps at junior officer level in the front line. Let's also assume that one of the main causes of these gaps is that all the sqn ldrs and wg cdrs are leaving in droves. So what happens when all these officers leave? Well, guess what? Lots of the junior officers get promoted to fill these gaps, leaving - surprise, surprise - gaps at the JO level. This - incidentally - is one of the reasons that the retention bonuses were aimed where they were, in an attempt to stop the sqn ldrs and wg cdrs leaving and taking their experience with them, and causing a suck from the JO ranks. I'm not pretending that the actual implementation of the plan was carried out correctly, because it wasn't, especially because giving it to spec aircrew guys goes no way to alleviating this problem, as they are (mostly if not entirely) filling JO posts. But, I digress! Anyway, keeping some people on beyond normal retirement age seems like a sensible stop-gap measure to me. BUT IT MUST BE A STOP GAP MEASURE TO BUY TIME TO SOLVE THE ROTTING IN THE BARREL BY OTHER MEANS. IT MUST NOT BE SEEN TO BE A "SOLUTION" TO THE PROBLEM!

So what about all the old bu&&ers who are being invited to stay to do certain jobs? Take my future job for example. I shall be running an AEF. In the recent past, the AEFs have been run by Aviation Officers (civil servants to you and me), so I'm not taking a job from a front line mate. In fact, it could be deemd that I am releasing a front line mate to be IN the front line. And anyway, do we have the choice of putting regular, young thrusters in these posts. It would be possible perhaps, but realistically it is not, except at huge cost. Why? More gaps at the JO level. Anyway, would you rather be flying on a front line sqn, or running an AEF, where you are the only full time staff member, you have no staff to do the "staff work" so you have to do all the paperwork yourself, you are wary of programming yourself in case the "volunteers" from the airline or the front line don't turn up (and it happens), and all the young bloods seem to think that because you're over 50 you have no idea of what the "real Air Force" is about. Believe me mateys, I do know.

As far as I'm concerned, the bottom line is that if we do not try - by any and all means - to keep the cockpits full pending the solution to the big time problems that we have, then we will all be losers. Anthony B Liar and his ilk will use empty cockpits to lever more cuts in the front line (don't believe me? look what they are trying to do with the Army by cutting the planned strength to match the actual strength). We should not be fighting each other over age divides, but fighting the system that is slowly but surely eroding the capabilities and reputation of what has historically been the finest fighting service in the world. Oh, by the way, the RAF has earned that reputation over the years, despite not having shiny, 2000 era aircraft to fly throughout it's history! You can only fly the aircraft that are available in your time - self-evident I know, but apparently not fully appreciated in some quarters. One-v-one - guns only - anyone? Your jet or mine???

11th Aug 2001, 18:28
Mach - 1952, yes indeed! Living near an aerodrome (RAF Merryfield), but making horrible smells and wetting myself quite often!!

So what has changed, I hear you ask!

Well - we probably had more squadrons then than we have serviceable aircraft now. But there were probably only as many penguins in the 'Technical' branch as we now have 'Engineers' polishing chairs with their ar$es in places like Wyton's wretched Bazalgette Pavilions preventing us from flying OUR aircraft!!

Wholi' - Hunter 6s at dawn, any time. You'd probably win, but we'd both be smiling afterwards!!

[ 11 August 2001: Message edited by: BEagle ]

11th Aug 2001, 18:41
Oh, sorry, almost forgot!

Couple of facts for you.

Fact 1: The Luftwaffe had a poor reputation for losing an enormous amount of 104s. Well, yes, they did. However, if you buy 850 jets, fly and service them by conscripts, you're bound to lose a few. Fact 1A: the RAF percentage loss rate for the Harrier, Lightning and Gnat was higher than the Luftwaffe 104 percentage loss rate.

Fact 2: On my first sqn (Hunters) my boss (a sqn ldr) and his 2 flt cdrs (flt lts) were empowered to authorise me down to 50 feet anywhere in the UK low flying system. They were also empowered to authorise me down to 250 feet full combat (no not low level evasion - full combat). To reiterate an earlier comment, it's not the hours that you get in, it's what you get into the hours that counts.

Edited 'cos I forgot to say " Beags ---- you're on mate"!
;) :)

[ 11 August 2001: Message edited by: Wholigan ]

Flatus Veteranus
12th Aug 2001, 01:56

Your response was most restrained; I was expecting a torrent of abuse in industrial language, featuring the Anglo-Saxon vernacular for my pseudonym! You were even more polite than the young lady (Jemima Puddleduck) who, on another thread, hurled the epithet "OLD MAN" at me. To my generation, this was a term of endearment!
I agree that I should control my sphincter on threads covering current weapons systems and tactics; but retention (believe it or not) is not a 21st century problem. There was a politico in 1957, Duncan Sandys (spit!), who drew the conclusion from the Suez fiasco that manned aircraft were finished and the future lay exclusively with ballistic missiles, against which there was no defence. Within a few months the fighter and FGA force was decimated; within weeks the runways at Kemble were packed with Hunters waiting to be broken up. The RAF lost many good people, including junior officers who threw away their PCs, and later had to introduce flying pay as a retention incentive. Some of my mates got in on the ground floor, at the beginning of the civil aviation expansion phase, with the Worlds Favourite Airline and the World's Best Airline (CP). The airlines pensioned them off at Age 55 and some, with the right endorsements on their licenses, went on for another 5 years with expanding Asiatic airlines. There seems to be no good reason why, with good medical monitoring, pilots should not serve on to age 60 in the less physically demanding roles. We are all living longer and retirement ages are going to have to rise too.

I, too, have flown faster aircraft than the Meatbox. I tend to hark back to it because it is my "high time" type (two tours). The Hunter was obviously much more pleasant to fly. I flew it on Type Sqn at CFS and not operationally, but my ex-208 friends tell me that, burdened as it was with drop tanks, in the FR role it was not that much hotter than the Meatbox. The Meteor FR9 SOP was: en route 360KIAS/250 ft; approaching target 420 KIAS/100 ft; leaving target area "balls out" (usually about 480KIAS) and as low as you dared. The limit for the ventral tank was supposed to be 450KIAS, but no one bothered about that.

Tim C

Having consulted Chaz Bowyer, BEagle has got it exactly right (as usual!) on the Meatbox's operational debut. Worksop was an Advanced Flying School - the third to form, I believe, after Driffield and Middleton St George. From about 53 onwards, Middleton and Worksop went to a rather longer syllabus and fed the AW fighter OCU at Leeming; Driffield and Zoyland fed the day fighter OCU at Stradishall.

Mach the Knife

Be fair, I have usually referred to Driffield and Middleton as "the bad old days". The accident rate was,by current standards, appalling. Even W Churchill was moved to bestir himself from his torpor to minute the S of S for Air to ask what the hell was going on. The reasons were complex; instructional standards were variable (bound to happen in a rapidly expanding organisation). The CFS course used a thingy called the Prentice (was it an aeroplane?)and the Harvard. Budding Meteor QFIs then did about a month on the Standards Flight at the AFS before starting to instruct. Although I was creamed, it is NOT a good idea! There was enormous pressure to get courses out on time to fill a rapidly expanding front line. Students were being sent solo in weather often beyond their capabilities, bearing in mind the inadequacies of the flight intstruments (vacuum-driven), nav systems (none)and radio (two VHF boxes sharing a common power supply.) One night we lost a student who got disoriented during his QGH, got into a spiral and went in. Next day an ashen-faced appproach controller told me how the lad had frozen onto the transmit button and had broadcast his mounting terror from rapid breathing on to...no matter. That night when "limited solo" was again ordered in crap weather, I remonstrated with my Flight Commander and was told very bluntly that, even in peace time, there were situations when Flight Safety was a secondary consideration.

IMHO the best QFIs ( and the worst) were NCOs. The ossifers filled the middle ground. But thats another topic. Neck back in and sphincter tight! Cheers all!

12th Aug 2001, 04:03
Ah NCO aircrew! Something I've been meaning to ask about.

When did the last NCO pilots in the RAF do their training, and when did the last NCO pilots leave (or were commissioned)?

At the risk of totally diverting this thread, why not bring back NCO pilots? Actually, come to think of it, bringing back NCO pilots may actually help the current situation. As mentioned on another thread recently, retraining airman aircrew (particularly air eng's) as NCO pilots would make a lot of sense, no?

Edited coz aye carnt spoll :D

[ 11 August 2001: Message edited by: TimC ]

Magic Mushroom
12th Aug 2001, 04:17
I met a Master Pilot running the Lightning sim at Binbrook in May 87. He was a real gent who waxed lyrical about how many more missiles his old Javelin could carry compared to the Lightning! I seem to remember him saying that he was one of 3 remaining Master pilots left in the mob at that time. I think the others were in ATC branch.

henry crun
12th Aug 2001, 04:47
FV: you could be right about Duncan Sandys drawing his conclusions from the Suez affair but most of us at the time thought he got the idea from his astrologer.
There were some huge pu's going on at that time as the affected ones valiantly tried to get rid of mess/squadron funds before closure or disbandment.
A minor point, Weston Zoyland did not only feed the dayfighter ocu's, I and a number of others went to Leeming from there.

[ 12 August 2001: Message edited by: henry crun ]

12th Aug 2001, 13:10
Henry crun - were you at Weston Zoyland when the infamous 'night it rained Meteors' happened? I was told years later that several bail-outs were needed after both Weston and Merryfield went out in fog. Any recollections of the details?

My father had some business at Weston Zoyland (also at Merryfield, Dunkeswell and Lulsgate) and I can still remember quite vividly seeing the 'crash compound' full of bits of Meteor.....

Now and again a Javelin would fly into Weston Zoyland, but no-one talked about the Canberras and Varsities which appeared in 1955. Years later I discovered why - they were involved in the UK's nuclear testing out in Australia.

Sadly it all became still and desolate shortly after Sandys killed the RAF; there's still quite a lot of the old aerodrome left, but the days when we had dozens of jet aircraft in the skies of the south-west are becoming a faded memory. Disused aerodromes were fun to explore as a kid on a bike - some mysteries were only explained recently, courtesy of PPRuNE!! Such as the tunnels at Merryfield connected with the vectored-thrust Meteor trials.....

henry crun
12th Aug 2001, 14:52
Beagle: the night you mention must have happened after I left, despite being there in the winter we had a pretty good run with the weather. Looking back on those days it doesn't surprise me that it happened.
There were a few in the crash compound but none more than one would have expected in that era.
Sad to hear that Zoyland is in that state now. My memories of it, apart from the flying, are of the friendly people, marvelous pubs, and beer and skittle evenings. Does that still go on ?.

I took my son to UK in 88 for his first visit and it seemed that everywhere we went I was pointing to a sign post and saying 'we used to have a station there". It was almost as if the RAF I had known had emigrated.

Jemima Puddleduck
12th Aug 2001, 16:31
Flatus Veteranus - ref my reference to you as an "OLD MAN", rudeness was not my intention, and age surely is relative to ones surroundings and situation.

Having read and digested this thread I apologise for the phrase "OLD" and now consider you to be much younger - relatively..! ;)

Flatus Veteranus
13th Aug 2001, 01:27
Tim C
Sorry, can't help on exact dates. There were NCO QFIs around at 2 FTS and 1 FTS in 50/51, in fact the ace instructor was a Polish Master Pilot. My instructor at Driffield was a Sgt Pilot (pretty useless - scared of the aircraft). There were no NCOs going through CFS in 51/52, but there were still plenty at Middleton, where the Standards Flight was virtually run by a Flt Sgt Ray Davis who earned his A1 by developing the jet asymmetric demonstration sequence that was still in use on the Vulcan at Finningley. Ray was later, as a Master Pilot, captain of a terribly secret aircraft at a most highly secret base in East Anglia. I never figured out who decided whom should be commissioned, and on what basis. The last NCO pilot had left 208 shortly before I joined in 54. I strongly suspect that, with the end of National Service approaching in 52/53(?), all pilots were offered commissions as a retention measure.

Jemima PD

That was handsome of you! I am sure you fly as beautifully as your eponymous heroine (P.20/21)

BEagle, I never heard about the Zoyland incident, but in about 53 there was the Linton fiasco when the Wing leader ("Silly Billy" D****) took his whole wing (36 Meatboxes) on a tour of UK to show off to all the other fighter stations. He was advised that he wouldn't make it round the route in the prevailing conditions, but insisted on pressing on. Pairs and sections were dropping off towards the end of the trip and scrambling in wherever they could in various states of distress. Two dead-sticked into Sherburn-in-Elmet, I believe, approaching the same runway from opposite ends at the same time. Legend has it that one guy yelped on the RT "You keep Left and I'll keep Right!" Miraculously no one was hurt and not an aircraft scratched!

[ 12 August 2001: Message edited by: Flatus Veteranus ]

14th Aug 2001, 04:43
In support of FV,

Whilst I am not trying to play devil's advocate.

Surely as long as someone is operationally deployable. (Granted hotels for the boys in blue) but at least FOBs, FARPs and buildings rented from the FRY locals in other cases who cares how old they are.

The service has very kindly laid down a set of physical and medical requirements. If there is no reason why these standards cannot be satisfied then why should age be a concern. Sex isn't, race isn't so why age?

I'll second the NCO aircrew comment from above. Aren't the RAF missing a trick here. NCO pilots make the army so what is it that you guys find so hard to stomach about it. :mad: Maybe your shortfall could be addressed this way.

:D :D

14th Aug 2001, 17:49
Don't the americans allow aircrew to fly regardless of age as long as they can pass their annual fitness tests etc?

If someones physically and medically fit enough for the job, and wants to do it, then why stop them? :)

14th Aug 2001, 22:07
But why, if someone has to prove their medical fitness every 6 months to the CAA and also have a 6-monthly ECG (mandatory for all over-50 aircrew), is there any conceivable need for a ride-to-nowhere on some jock-strapper's torture apparatus?