View Full Version : For the Young Ones...

-David Johnson-
13th Nov 2001, 07:59
Following visiting the International Careers in Aviation convention on Saturday I thought that I would do a post on what is available for young people in this industry.

Much of what is here I have said before (had to re-register because I forgot my password), however, I have added a bit more detail this time.

The events of September 11th are still firmly in our minds but the industry will carry on and the need for pilots will continue.

I feel that there is a lot of literature available both on this site and books giving advice on what to do to become an airline pilot, whether it be the possible routes to take, or indeed what sponsorships are available.

The aim of this post is to explore what you can do before you reach this stage, i.e. around the age of 17.


Sponsorships may have been terminated but scholarships will continue to run. The main three, which I will discuss, are those of the RAF Flying Scholarship and The Air League Flying and Engineering Scholarships.

RAF Flying Scholarship

The RAF Flying Scholarship is soon to be terminated, reasons why are irrelevant here. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that anyone who fits into the academic and age criteria to apply as soon as possible.

Firstly, like with everything with the military, the responsibility is in your hands-they are not going to beg for you, you need to do everything yourself.
The first stage is to go down to your local military careers office. These are located in most cities and major towns in the country. When you enter a careers office you will have an army desk, navy and air force. It is common that one of the people behind the desk will ask you which service you require. If they don't and they are speaking to people, just sit quietly and wait to be spoken to. When you do get called up to the desk you will need to say what it is you are interested in. At this stage you will be required to fill out a form which has details of your qualifications, age, address and medical history. Once this form has been filled in you will be required to arrange a time for an interview with "the boss" at the particular careers office.

This initial interview should not be underestimated. This interview will decide whether you go to Cranwell or not. That is its purpose, a way of filtering out the people who would not pass at OASC (Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre). The interview here is thorough but being prepared is the key. A useful aid for this interview is an A5 sized book (Landscape) which has the various RAF aircraft with a few details of each. Now then, you have to use your common sense here. You are applying for the Royal AIR Force. To that end, it is wise to read up and learn absolutely everything in that book. Extra curricular activities are important, as are qualifications.

The applicant should note that the RAF are looking for potential officers. It doesn't matter what you wish to do in the RAF, you have to meet a baseline criteria in order to succeed. If you get turned away at this stage please don't worry. The best thing to do is wait (you have to wait a while before you can apply) and then apply again. This may seem obvious but many, many people just give up and don't bother applying...and in my opinion if that is their attitude then the selection procedure did well to get rid of them at that stage. The military is demanding, in any form but especially when it comes flying. Do you really think that the RAF wants to invest vast sums of money to train someone who just quits when the going gets tough? I may be wrong but I believe that often being rejected is part of the selection procedure-to see how badly you want it.

The other side of course is that the person says "Right, I am going to recommend you to Cranwell." This in turn will mean that you will receive a letter in the post a while later stating a time and date for you to arrive at OASC - or rather Grantham station (as many arrive by train). You will be picked up at the station and took directly to Cranwell.

Shortly after you arrive you will be given a little talk by a senior member of personnel. He/she basically just tries to get interactive with the group and states what the process will be for the rest of the day and the following day. The rest of the day that you arrive you normally do the aptitude tests and the following day you do the medical and the interview.

The aptitude test consists of one test. It uses the typical joystick and rudder pedals setup. It comprises of a dot that moves around the screen. You have a crosshair and must move the cross hair so that it is over the dot as it moves. However, it should be noted that the joystick only controls vertical movement and the rudder pedals only control lateral movement. You have time to practice then if I remember correctly you have three "for real" goes. The aptitude results are calculated and are marked out of 9. Nine being the best. Not too much weight is put on the results of these aptitude tests, if you have "some ability" then you will be ok. The most important part is actually the interview which will be on the following day.

On day two the day is usually spilt between medicals and interviews. The medical is thorough but is not the standard required to gain entry into the RAF as a pilot. For example, no body measurements are taken besides height and weight - so no "buttock to toe length" etc. I think it prudent at this stage to dispel the myth that the RAF Flying Scholarships are solely for people who wish to be pilots. That is very far from the truth. The idea of the scholarship is to reward in a sense those individuals that the RAF thinks fit the bill. I suppose in a way they hope that you love flying so much that you may actually want to be a pilot for them at the end of it instead of being in ATC for example. Out of my group many actually failed the medical.

The interview is typical RAF style. It lasts a total of 45mins and is undertaken by two officers (in my case a Wing Commander and a Squadron Leader). Basically, one person asks questions whilst the other person takes notes. The interview is fast paced and thorough, it is vital that you prepare. Again use your common sense - learn the aircraft!! The range of the interview goes from, you as a person , through school and academic life to hobbies then about what you want to do in the RAF. It is common that a question on aircraft will be thrown in that you do now know - don't try and waffle with rubbish - a simple "I am sorry, I do not know the answer to that - would you mind telling me?" is the best answer. Everything will be noticed about you - the way you are dressed, the way you sit etc. Remember the basics, what your body language says...

*Tip 1*

The interview as aforementioned is typical RAF style. People have trouble, not because the questions are hard, rather that they come thick and fast. Expect to be interrupted mid sentense. The idea behind this is to create pressure - to see which ones buckle. It is vital to remain cool and composed. I would recommend actually trying to slow the pace down. Just take your time and tell them what you know. Another reason why they stop you mid sentense (in my opinion) is to try and catch out the people that have learned the statistics of an aircraft in a particular order - they don't have a clue really. So by asking specific questions rather than letting the candiate churn out a memorised paragraph they are seeing how much you really know and how what you are saying relates to the aircraft in question.

*Tip 2*

It is likely that you will be asked abuot two careers in the RAF; your first choice and your second choice. It comes as no surprise (when thinking about the pressure part mentioned above) that the boarding officers ask you about your second choice first. The idea I would presume, would be to see how far you have read around the subject and how all the careers in the RAF integrate to form a team. Secondly, it is common that you would know less information about your second choice than your first, so they probably see if you can still perform when in effect you have had a knockback firstly. (some people would crumble having thinking that they have blown it)

When the interview has been completed, you will then have to wait for a debrief. In the debrief you will learn, or have a good idea of whether you have been successful.

If you are successful you will be awarded 20 hours flying at selected airfields around the country. You are expected to go solo in about 8 hours. Don't expect it to be easy but it is great fun!

The Air League Flying Scholarship

Winners of this scholarship will receive 15 hours towards a PPL (in accordance with the JAR-FCL syllabus) to be flown in the following spring and/or summer after you have applied. Air Caets are eligible foor the award of the Joe Wheater PPL Scholarship and the 20 hour Scarman flying scholarships.
The process is fairly simple.

You get an application form from the Air League and you must fill it out and send it back before the closing date. You have to be between 17 and 22 years of age.

****Application Form****

Firstly, the first word of advice with any kind of application form is get the original copy photocopied first. This will then allow you to make as many mistakes as you like and then you can produce a perfect version afterwards.

What I will do now is look at a few of the questions on the application form. I don't think anyone will mind the questions being released as it is how you answer them that counts.

The first interesting question is:

How has your flying to date been financed?

Some people may think that this is irrelevant but it certainly isn't. It is important to remember that The Air League awards the scholarships to the most deserving people. To that end it is easy to see what the reaction would be if you said "My parents have paid for it all."

They want to award people who have really bust a gut, worked hard for everything that they have achieved. Yes, there are people out there who's parents pay for it all but I don't think it would go down very well here.

List any vacation work/jobs you have undertaken:

Again this just shows maturity and the ability to go out there and do something for yourself. Money allows you to be independant and having and indeed keping a job shows many qualities that are invaluable.

List any self-financed travel in the UK or overseas:

It may be becoming apparent now that the application form is firmly trying to find out what YOU have done. In my opinion it is trying to measure how independant you are, mature and what you will do to fulfill you dream.

In around 100 words and your own handwriting, explain what use you would make of the experience gained on an ALET flying Scholarship

This is the last quesion that I have selected for review. It is the last question on the applpication form and may well be the difference between you getting called up for interview or not. It is clear that The Air League will want to spend the money on someone that can really make a difference to their current situation - i.e. money well spent. You also have to say how many words you used - so be able to count and understand around 100 words.

The last thing to say about the application form, and this counts for any application form; photocopy yur FINAL copy. There is nothing worse I would imagine than going to an interview, and each of the interviewers starts asking you in depth about what you wrote down - yet you can't remember. Preparation!

Based on the application form a shortlist of about 80 is produced. These people are then either sent to Cranwell, or if they have done the above tests and medical before - to the Air League offices in London. The interview is relaxed but obviously be on your guard. At Cranwell there was a board of three.

* The Air League Secretary
* A RAF Wing Commander
* Aviation Consultant

The third person in this list might raise a few eyebrows. There is absolutely no way that you can try and talk rubbish to him as basically he knows everything :) The questions he asks you will depend on how much flying you have actually done. For example - he may ask something like "So what does the white arc indicate on an ASI"

There are 50 scholarships on offer so if you get to the interview stage there is a good possibility that you will get a scholarship, again, I must stress - preparation is the key.

It should be noted that in order to apply for this scholarship you must be a member of The Air League.

STUDENT membership (under age 22) 23 per annum or 21 p.a. if paying by DDI

Air League Engineering Scholarship

Some people may dismiss this scholarship because "it isn't flying." Well, that is fine but in my opinion those people are misguided and naive. The events as aforementioned of September 11th should promote what is the most important thing in aviation - PLAN B. Do you want to be just a pilot - or do you want to work in aviation is some form? Indeed, what happens if you can't get a job as a pilot straight away, wouldn't it be better to be working in an aviation related career whilst waiting for that lucky break?

What I am trying to say is, is that at an early age you should be creating a plan just incase something goes wrong. That isn't pessimistic, that is being sensible. That means that you should explore as many avenues as possible. My placement was at BAE SYSTEMS working in Tornado Weapon Systems and Eurofighter Development.

In conclusion, just get as many strings to your bow as you can. If nothing else it shows a keeness in aviation as a whole and not just flying - which is important.


I have watched with interest over the last few months (but haven't really had the time to comment) on this popular subject.

If you are 15/16 years old now, and are unsure then perhaps this will help.

Firstly, you do not need a degree to be a pilot. Flying an aircraft is a physical aptitude although obviously a descent amount of academia is required.

What I have tried to promote all the way through this post is "preparation and planning ahead."

So at 15/16 years old, I now ask the question-What if you can't be a pilot? The answer is of course "I will - I will do everything I can." That is great in as far as it goes but it is a serious question which deserves to be looked at closely. The aviation industry is very dynamic, and literally anything can happen. Furthermore, what happens if you can't get sponsorship, you pay yourself and can't get hired, you fail your sim ride, you fail your medical? These are all valid reasons why you could be left without a leg to stand on. At least with the security of good a-level subjects and a degree you have other options in life and greater employent chances.

Many times on PPRuNe I have seen "Do the A-levels that you enjoy." In theory that seems correct but I want to look at another point of view. All through life we have to make sacrifices, do things that we don't want to do, slog away for hours on end. I am on an Aero course and many people (including myself) will tell you that they didn't do the subjects they chose because they liked them, rather because they either needed them or wanted to give themselves the best chance for future career aspirations. On the defensive people say "Yes but an 'A' in history looks better than a 'C' in maths." The thing is though, is that everyone knows which are the hard subjects, and the people that say these things seem to conveniently forget the fact that on some sponsorship schemes it says "Science subjects preferred."

The subject which follows on from this is of course is "Degree or no degree?" and also "If yes - which one?"

Today, many people have degrees. They are available in a multitude of subjects to cater for all careers - except, maybe if you want to be a pilot. There isn't any one degree which you can pin point. Indeed, some people say that the ATPL theory and examinations is like a degree. University is about a lot of things, not just what subjects you do. It is about learning about "life skills." Look at it from a potential employers point of view. Say if you go for a sponsorship, and you have someone who has just come out of their A-Levels and someone who is has done a degree (away from home). Immediately, the assumption (rightly or wrongly) is that the person who has the degree will have aquired various key qualities. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that someone who has got A-Levels and is in full time employment will not have these skills but university is one of the few times in your life where you will be dumped in the middle of a massive crowd of people who you do not know.

In terms of which one, well that is largely dictated by your choice of A-Level subject (hence why I stress the early preparation and planning). Aero Eng is a popular one and it will help you with your ATPL Tech. exams. The key question you need to address is "What if I can't become a pilot." I say this because if you can't then your degree will in many ways dictate what jobs you can go into.

For example - say if you chose Aero Eng - you could be a pilot, an aeronautical engineer, ATC etc...

So in many ways it allows you to be involved in aviation in many ways. Of course, if you are only interested in flying and nothing but flying then that doesn't apply.

I suppose I better end it here before people get too tired. Concerning the above I want to make something cystal clear - the above is all my opinion. I say that because I don't want somebody to come up and start shouting at me for trying to streamline how people think. That is the last thing I want, I just thought that I would try and help some people at the very, very bottom of the ladder...as at the end of the day - we all help each other :)

[ 13 November 2001: Message edited by: -David Johnson- ]

[ 13 November 2001: Message edited by: -David Johnson- ]

13th Nov 2001, 14:15
Thank you for bothering to sit down and write all that out! Very interesting reading - I managed to get an RAF flying scholarship in 1995, and have never looked back since! I would recommend it to anyone intersted in aviation. It's a shame I didn't know about the Air League scholarships before, as I'm too old now (I'll pay more attention to the thread title next time!). Thanks again.

Luke SkyToddler
13th Nov 2001, 17:59
Nice post David ... now correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that it has not been possible to apply for the RAF Flying Scholarship since Feb/Mar this year? Who told you all these things at the conference, was it someone from the RAF?

I was just made redundant from my RAF FS instructing job a couple of weeks back, and I was told at the time that it was due to the double blow to my company of no RAF Flying Scholarship next year and the downturn in CPL training bookings post September.

I'd be VERY interested to hear from anyone who can tell me if the RAF Flying Scholarship is actually still going and what sort of timeframe they're working to with regard to withdrawing it.

-David Johnson-
13th Nov 2001, 19:55
Hi Luke,

Firstly, sorry to hear that you were made redundant.

All of the information above is purely mine. The RAF nor The Air League were at the conference.

I fear that what you say may be the case. As I said in my post I was under the impression that it was finishing soon but I didn't think that it had finished already. If it has then it is a great shame.

That of course means that the RAF Flying Scholarship section above doesn't really help anybody - so I apologise if that is the case. I will leave it in just incase people can get little bits of information from within it that may help them with something else.

Luke SkyToddler
13th Nov 2001, 20:17
Ah. That being the case I'll put my hand up and say what a lot of my Flying Scholarship students told me during the summer, that the scholarships are withdrawn and it's no longer possible to apply for them. Anyone who's still got one was probably selected earlier in the year and in any case will have to complete the scholarship within the next few months.

There is - or was - a movement afoot to overturn the minister's decision, and reinstate the scholarship in some limited form next year, but at this stage there's been no official word and I imagine the MOD are a little bit distracted at the moment to be honest.

Hopefully if there's any change to this situation I'll be the first to know, I'll obviously keep you all informed.

clear prop!!!
14th Nov 2001, 02:01
Luke, are you still flying by the banks of the silvery Tay?

What on earth is going on up there? Have they completely lost the plot and given up the ghost????

Luke SkyToddler
14th Nov 2001, 15:05
Not at all clear prop ... I should have made myself more clear perhaps, I'm not parting on bad terms with the management at all and may indeed be back if I can't find anything faster to fly in the next few months. To be fair, it's always been a fairly seasonal business when you're this far north, especially with the contract, people that work here have always been drowning under a flood of students in Jul/Aug/Sep/Oct and then found themselves spending the winter staring at the office four walls.

What's happened this year however, is that in the normal scheme of things, most of the instructors would move on to the airlines at the end of the summer (apparently in the last few months of last year, 17 instructors went on to airline / airforce jobs). The company likes it that way, so they can get through the slow winter months with minimal staff and then take on a bunch of new instructors in the spring. This year however with the airline crisis there's not been a single one of us able to go anywhere else. A few cutbacks were kind of inevitable really.

So I wouldn't go accusing them of losing the plot and in fact they have a few little cards up their sleeves yet that I'm not alowed to talk about, obviously I'd prefer to be getting paid to fly but I'm actually not too bothered by taking an unpaid leave of absence and spending the winter in warmer climes :D Suffice to say the boss is quite well connected, I wouldn't see that company doing an SFT any time soon even if the Flying Scholarship is over and done with.

Personally I've got my 1500 hours in singles now and I'm going to spend the next few months scouring the four corners of the earth for multi time, but I'm still on good terms with the boss and if nothing better comes up and the airline hiring stays slow then as I said I will probably be back here next summer.

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