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RAF “Crewing”

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RAF “Crewing”

Old 9th Jan 2021, 22:34
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RAF “Crewing”

Evening all,

Something I’ve always wondered, was if the RAF had its own crewing department. Naturally, I would assume they did, however looking at the RAF roles online I can’t find any role that could include crewing, other than perhaps Air Operations Officer.

Since the RAF have their own cabin crew etc, are these crew given monthly rosters as per civvy street? And if so, is the crewing side therefore done by AirTanker? Or, being the military, is everything just told to you the day before?
Someone, somewhere will be monitoring rosters, FTLs and all that good stuff, right?

I appreciate not all information can be shared, so any info is appreciated
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Old 10th Jan 2021, 00:07
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Originally Posted by nowhereasfiled View Post
Evening all,

Something I’ve always wondered, was if the RAF had its own crewing department. Naturally, I would assume they did, however looking at the RAF roles online I can’t find any role that could include crewing, other than perhaps Air Operations Officer.

Since the RAF have their own cabin crew etc, are these crew given monthly rosters as per civvy street? And if so, is the crewing side therefore done by AirTanker? Or, being the military, is everything just told to you the day before?
Someone, somewhere will be monitoring rosters, FTLs and all that good stuff, right?

I appreciate not all information can be shared, so any info is appreciated
It’s a difficult question to answer as it can vary between FJ, RW and AT.

For RW, it’s generally done by the crews themselves, personnel within the Sqn will be delegated as duty planners but may also be assisted by the op branch.

For Voyager, Flight Deck crew and cabin crew routine flying is planned by a mix of military and civilian Air Tanker staff pretty much the same as an airline (but with much more flexibility and late notice changes) but for exercise/operational planning that’s usually done by crews who are also designated as duty planners.

hope this helps but there is a big variation between how different fleets do it.
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Old 10th Jan 2021, 10:24
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Fast jet squadrons schedule their flying in the same way as described above for RW. My experience has been that support from Flt Ops staff is invaluable in getting the programme 90% complete and coordinating with external agencies. However the intimate familiarity of the aircrew themselves with training requirements, individuals' strengths and weaknesses, likely effect of the weather on intended aims, etc, means that the "Programmer" (a secondary duty carried out on a rotational basis by the more capable junior aircrew) is one of the key figures in squadron middle-management.

Ascent provide a civilian programmer at Valley so that no QFI is 'wasted' on programming when they could be instructing. Although the programming task is simpler than the endless variations possible at the front line, I gather there were issues with lack of flexibility, particularly in adapting syllabus progression or sortie content to the weather. Don't know whether that has improved as they've gained experience?
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Old 10th Jan 2021, 11:20
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During my time with the Hercules fleet the monthly tasking would arrive on the squadron and be passed on to the various sections. As the ALM leader I was then responsible for allocating loadmasters to fulfil the tasking. Who I chose for any particular task was dependent on a number of factors. Qualifications, experience etc were all to be taken into account.
As you can see the tasking was done 'at the coal face' in my time.
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Old 10th Jan 2021, 13:25
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As AA62 says, AT crewing was similar to that of the airlines, albeit without a specific crewing department organising it. Rather, it was co-ordinated by the aircrew leaders to ensure 'equal misery for all', or joy depending on one's viewpoint. Certainly any goodies such as sought after trainers (empty aircraft, other than a spares pack up, 'flying the flag') or detachments (like Supply Dropping in Borneo), were scrupulously shared out fairly and evenly. Training requirements of course had to be accommodated too.

The one exception in my experience to that pattern was on Hastings at 24 Squadron. The Boss crewed up his Squadron in much the same way that Bomber Command did in WWII (though then they chose one another at OTU, I believe). As a new captain I was lucky, and was allocated a superb crew. Others of course varied and the practice was not generally widespread. The main objection was the effect it might have on standardisation, which was essential if crews were made up ad hoc on a daily basis. If they flew together on a semi permanent basis then nods and winks could begin to unravel the SOPs.
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Old 10th Jan 2021, 15:04
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The process during WW2 involved putting everyone in a room until they had formed themselves into crews. On my first OCU (242 OCU) we were also expected to make up our own crews but over the first week of the course as I recall rather than in an afternoon. On subsequent courses and when I was on the OCU staff myself crews were selected to allow for experience, possible CRM issues etc, sometimes with a planned change mid-course so that any issues that did crop up could be corrected without any hint of embarrassment to the individuals concerned.

On my first OCU the Nav was transferred out of our crew and replaced as it was perceived that he was a ‘weak link’ affecting our overall performance which did result in a fair amount of negativity for all of us.

Once on the squadron crews were made up for each trip as described above, with planning done for the month ahead although that was always subject to a considerable amount of change as the crewing ratio was much lower than for an airline so sickness etc had a major knock-on effect. The shortest notice I had for a route was 20 minutes for a call out when they couldn’t contact the standby co-pilot so I was phoned up as I lived on base.
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 08:15
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As Ken implied the monthly tasking was but a first 'draft' in respect of the actual flying done as extra tasking would appear throughout the month. The AT squadrons had very little control over their own tasking most of which was generated by external agencies. We were always below establishment but the tasking took no account of that inconvenient fact. Courses, leave, injuries etc all had an impact on personnel availability to carry out the tasking. It was always a juggling act !
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 08:24
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At the risk of being slightly contentious here, the OP was asking how it “is” done - and a couple of answers pretty much covered that for the AT, RW and FJ fleets.

I’m not that convinced that stories about how crewing “was” done on an aircraft that was taken out of service nearly 45 years ago (according to Wiki) are necessarily relevant... 🤔
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 08:39
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Originally Posted by Easy Street View Post
However the intimate familiarity of the aircrew themselves with training requirements, individuals' strengths and weaknesses, likely effect of the weather on intended aims, etc, means that the "Programmer" (a secondary duty carried out on a rotational basis by the more capable junior aircrew) is one of the key figures in squadron middle-management.
Remember it well (apart from the being regarded as capable bit).

In the light of a previous comment dare I ask a supplementary question? Is the main planning tool still perspex and chinagraph/magnetic plaques and a white board or have things progressed to "devices, planning, electronic for the use of.."?
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 11:47
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Originally Posted by wiggy View Post
Remember it well (apart from the being regarded as capable bit).

In the light of a previous comment dare I ask a supplementary question? Is the main planning tool still perspex and chinagraph/magnetic plaques and a white board or have things progressed to "devices, planning, electronic for the use of.."?
The two front line squadrons with which I've had recent (ish) contact still used whiteboard, pens and magnetic plaques. So much easier to shuffle the pieces around until the optimum solution was found, and the end result was then entered to the ops computer system. The flying training schools have long since moved to wholly computer-based programming.
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 13:11
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Sadly (in my opinion) the Perspex boards on AT sqns went many years ago replaced by a series of computer programs that gave you far less visibility of the plot.

I’m not that convinced that stories about how crewing “was” done on an aircraft that was taken out of service nearly 45 years ago (according to Wiki) are necessarily relevant... 🤔
That would imply that the fundamental process whether presented on a board or a screen has changed, which it hasn’t much - too much short notice tasking competing with too few assets with variable serviceability. It’s a far easier process where most of your tasks are schedules planned well ahead rather than a response to some crisis.
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 13:35
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Originally Posted by Ken Scott View Post
The process during WW2 involved putting everyone in a room until they had formed themselves into crews.
Just as an aside Ken, that happened when crews were ready to go to an OTU with a crew of 5 ( Wellingtons for example), but usually then got allocated an FE and M/UG later at an HCU when 4 engined heavies were the norm.

Indeed there were some stories of crews having FE's join them at a HCU who unbelievably had never flown before!
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 15:01
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Indeed there were some stories of crews having FE's join them at a HCU who unbelievably had never flown before!
Also as an ‘aside’ to the main topic (so as not to ‘offend’ frodo_monkey!!) I don’t believe it’s that uncommon for some of the rear crew chaps to have little airborne experience prior to their OCU even in more recent times. Certainly the ab initio ALMs on my first cse joined us without their brevets and with only a handful of flights under their belts, they were presented with them on successful completion of the course. FEs used to do much of their training on an old Nimrod AEW ac at Finningley which could be taxied but not flown.

I’m not an expert on rear crew training but I don’t think they do a great deal of flying on their basic cse today, perhaps a couple of trips as a PA on the Phenom?
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Old 11th Jan 2021, 23:59
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Originally Posted by Ken Scott View Post
Also as an ‘aside’ to the main topic (so as not to ‘offend’ frodo_monkey!!) I don’t believe it’s that uncommon for some of the rear crew chaps to have little airborne experience prior to their OCU even in more recent times. Certainly the ab initio ALMs on my first cse joined us without their brevets and with only a handful of flights under their belts, they were presented with them on successful completion of the course. FEs used to do much of their training on an old Nimrod AEW ac at Finningley which could be taxied but not flown.

I’m not an expert on rear crew training but I don’t think they do a great deal of flying on their basic cse today, perhaps a couple of trips as a PA on the Phenom?
At the risk of thread drift...the mention of PA,promptts this question. Many years ago I worked with a fellow who had been an A/G on Whitleys during the war,but had finished his RAF career as a PA on Dominies.He retired before long and I didn't know him well,but I would be interested to know what those duties would have entailed.Would he perhaps just have operated the radios,or be involved in actual operation of the a/c,nav etc ? I'd be glad if anyone could enlighten me.
Thanks.
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