Career as a RAF Aircraft technician
John is an aircraft technician specialising in electrical systems. His role is to check that aircraft are fit to fly before the pilot takes control. At present, he is working on VC10s – huge aircraft which are used to refuel smaller planes in mid-air.
What does your job involve?
I work as part of a team making sure aircraft are fit to fly. We do a routine series of checks before an aircraft can fly. After the aircraft has landed we have to check it again, and also look at any faults, which the pilot reports. I work on electrical systems. Other teams work on the rest of the mechanical and electronic systems.
Everything has to be documented. We have to write a report on each fault and what we've done to investigate it and put it right. I spend about two hours of each 12-hour shift doing paperwork and updating the computer.
Are you working on your own?
Not at all. I work with a sergeant, a corporal and two junior technicians. We get to know each other really well – we're mates as well as colleagues. We each play our part in doing a professional job – we respect each other and use first names at work.
How responsible is the job?
Very. The lives of the aircrew depend on the technicians doing their job properly. If an aircraft has a fault then the decision is made to ground it. The aircraft can't fly until it's safe again.
Which aircraft do you work on?
At the moment I'm trained to work on VC10s. It's a large aircraft which refuels smaller aircraft mid-air. VC10s go all over the world with a servicing team on board. I've been to Turkey, Bahrain, Japan, South Africa and the US.
What hours do you work?
I work 12-hour shifts, either days or nights. I generally do two or three days followed by two or three nights and then have a few days off.
Where do you live?
When I'm working, I live in a shared house on the base. I live close to my colleagues as well as working with them. I've got my own house too, which I'm re-decorating and I go there when I have a few days off. So I'm hoping my next posting won't be too far away but you can never tell where you'll be going next.
John's RAF technician tips
- Take advantage of the education and qualifications you can get in the RAF – anything from fast-track GCSEs to a degree.
- Be prepared to be flexible – you will be moving around the world.
Becoming an RAF Aircraft technician
- Basic training is followed by the RAF's technician training course. Aircraft technicians can specialise in avionics (electronics) or mechanics.
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