Former Tornado GR4 Pilot

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icould and Inspiring the Future Mandy, Former Tornado GR4 Pilot Royal Air Force

Time Code Audio
00:00:07 Hi, my name is Mandy Hickson. I’m a former Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 pilot. In other words, I used to fly something that looks a lot like that.
00:00:17 One of my favourite aspects of this job was the fact that it’s so exhilarating. The sheer pleasure of taking off in 35 million pounds’ worth of amazing aircraft and flying low level around Wales or the Lake District.
00:00:32 You’re posted to lots of different bases in the Air Force, so you do move around quite a lot, which when you’re young, I really loved. I loved the fact that every 3 years you change jobs as well, so you’re taking on lots of different roles. You’re getting promoted, you work up through the ranks as well.
00:00:48 One of the aspects of personality that’s really handy to have within that job is I would say to be a fairly good decision maker, a really good team player and actually that is probably one of the most important aspects actually. If you’re the sort of person that really enjoys working with different people as well, from lots of different walks of life. It’s handy if you have leadership skills as well and you have the ability to make decisions very quickly.
00:01:16 I grew up in Manchester. I started off at an all girls’ school. I was very sporty, I loved theatre and drama as well and it was while I was at school I joined an external club called the RAF Air Cadets and I joined that when I was 14. It had just opened its doors to girls and I joined on one of the very first nights. When I was there I absolutely loved it. I got to fly, I did things like night exercises, I played netball and hockey for them and you basically get fully immersed in the, what the RAF is looking for in its youngsters.
00:01:55 I did all my A Levels, I did pretty science-based subjects actually. I was, I really prefer the stem side of things, so I did Biology, I did Physics, I did Maths as well and I did Geography, so I loved Geography. Went off to university in Birmingham and I studied Geography and Sports Science. I was still very keen though to join the Royal Air Force and at 17 I was awarded a Flying Scholarship and that gave me enough hours to build on, to gain my private pilot’s licence and so now I was really on this track to becoming a pilot.
00:02:26 My grandpa was a pilot in the Second World War and I think it was through hearing his stories that first actually enticed me into joining the Air Force. Then when I was at university, one of the really influential figures for myself was the boss of the University Air Squadron and I had been struggling to pass all the computer-based aptitude tests because life’s not always that easy and I failed them once and then I failed them twice and he really believed in me and went the extra mile for me to get me through and it completely changed really my route through the Air Force really.
00:03:01 To get started in this line of work I would definitely recommend joining something like the air cadets or the university air squadrons because it does give you a really good insight into it. If I had to give my younger self some words of advice, I would say, believe in yourself. It’s amazing what you can achieve actually when you do have that little bit of belief, But also don’t be fearful of failing. I’ve failed many times throughout my entire career and actually we learn through failing. It’s how we deal with that, whether we let it destroy us, whether we take it as a hit and we don’t come back from it, but building up that resilience that we need and becoming a bit more of a robust character, can really help you in your future careers as well, so yeah, my top tips would be to believe in ourselves and to overcome that fear of failing.


“Don’t be fearful of failing. I’ve failed many times throughout my entire career and actually we learn through failing.” Joining the RAF Air Cadets and then her University Air Squadron set Mandy on the path to becoming a pilot. At the end of her RAF service, she retrained as an airline pilot before opting for a complete career change. She now works as a motivational speaker.

More information about Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

average salary

The UK average salary is ÂŁ29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

90%  male 
10%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Aircraft flight deck officers check, regulate, adjust and test engines and other equipment prior to take-off, navigate and pilot aircraft and give flying lessons.
Entrants with GCSEs/S grades and A levels/H grades, an Advanced GNVQ/GSVQ Level III or a BTEC/ SQA award can apply for an airline sponsorship. Private residential training is available to candidates with GCSEs/S grades or appropriate BTEC/SQA or GNVQ/GSVQ awards or to holders of Private Pilots Licences who have 700 hours flying experience. Normal colour vision is required and candidates undergo a medical examination. Training lasts up to 15 months and consists of courses of study and flying instruction. Airlines may have additional age and height requirements.
  • Studies flight plan, discusses it with flight deck crew and makes any necessary adjustments;
  • Directs or undertakes routine checks on engines, instruments, control panels, cargo distribution and fuel supplies;
  • Directs or undertakes the operation of controls to fly aeroplanes and helicopters, complying with air traffic control and aircraft operating procedures;
  • Monitors fuel consumption, air pressure, engine performance and other indicators during flight and advises pilot of any factors that affect the navigation or performance of the aircraft;
  • Maintains radio contact and discusses weather conditions with air traffic controllers;
  • Performs specified tests to determine aircraft’s stability, response to controls and overall performance;
  • Accompanies pupil on training flights and demonstrates flying techniques.
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