My name is Grant Robey and I'm a Cadet Sergeant with 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron Air Training Corps. I have just returned from a week long Work Experience placement with the RAF and I had such a good time I thought I would write this article to let you all know how good it was.
I arrived at RAF Brize Norton Wednesday afternoon only 3 hours after passing my driving test and it was straight into the Flight Operations offices, I was briefed on who is who and what I would be doing on my work experience placement.
I already knew the person who would be looking after me as an old friend, he had organised the work experience for me. After the brief there was not a lot of time left until the end of the day so I was shown what goes into a flight bag, these where all of the international differences, maps, codes and anything that the pilot may need whist on a flight. I was shown how to pack a bag from Brize Norton to Akrotiri, being told that I would be packing some tomorrow I paid close attention.
Up at 6am the next day for breakfast, I firstly met the sergeant of flight ops and we had a good discussion about current affairs, my career and the Royal Air Force. He was a very down to earth person and hearing about his career so far was very interesting. It did shock me that the working environment was quite laid back and things where still getting done – I come to the conclusion that it was one of the many benefits of having a career with the RAF as your colleagues are like minded ambitious people who want to get the job done so there is room for a chilled out working environment.
Whist at Brize Norton the station was getting ready for its annual families day where RAF personnel can bring their children and family along to see what they do on a day to day basis, they also had a range of fly pasts and planes on display but sadly I would miss this as it was the day after I would leave the station.
After the discussion with the sergeant I started to pack another flight bag, it was from Brize Norton to a base in the USA , being such a long flight this required 4 bags. After having the bags I had made checked I was shown the station operations room, where I met 2 SAC and 1 LAC and they shown me how to make a jet plan which is basically a AA route planner for the sky, I learnt that the sky is full of our equivalent of motorways and A and B roads. Also that for each different international air space that we enter this department has to gain permission to enter and even then we have restrictions about what height we fly at, and where to enter and where to exit so it never was just a straight line from A to B as some countries had to be avoided.
Just next to this section was ASCOT, which is unique to Brize Norton, it is a computer system that is linked to 2 screens and it follows flights that are currently happening, it shows their current position and also has direct contact with the pilot of the plane. I had been watching a plane out to afghan for a few moments as it landed; when it landed I was soon told it was Prime Minister David Cameron on that flight and that's why it was being followed.
After this I was taken back to flight ops by a pilot where I had been given the print out of the jet plan, and a set of maps that covers the journey. I was then given 4 high lighters, I was told to use one colour for the route to take, one colour for any junction, one colour for any beacons and the final colour was for emergency runways that the plane could land on. This is all in aid to make sure the flight goes smoothly, and the pilot does not have to spend time looking for the things such as where he is or the nearest beacons. I was taught about what the different beacons look like and what different signals they set of and what types of aircraft can pick the signal up. This pilot had said that he was very impressed at what I had done and he invited me back for the next month to spend some time with another pilot and a weapon systems operator which is the trade I am currently on the waiting list for, sadly it required my college to sign a form of indemnity and they were unwilling to sign it so this placement was unable to be given to me. It had soon reached 1730 and it was the end of the second day.
The final day had approached fast and today was the day that I had been given a Tri-Star flight simulator space, after breakfast it was straight to the sim, firstly I was told what was what in the cock pit and I strapped myself into the pilots' chair. My first task was to land it from straight and level which was pretty easy after completing my gliding scholarship, but they soon upped what I had to do and I was taking off and landing on airstrip that if I overshot I'd end up crashing over the end of a cliff. All of the hydraulics made it feel just as if you where flying for real and it did make me sweat trying to land this plane. After this I was lucky enough to be shown around a real one, I was shocked at how much the sim looked like the real one. I was shown all around the plane and shown how all of the up to date equipment works and helps the pilot.
During the sort stop at Brize Norton the working environment and atmosphere of the camp has given me the reassurance that a career with the Royal Air Force is for me and I look forward to starting.