RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog

An admission…and this may shock you…

I want to own up to something.

And it came as a result of a conversation in a mobile phone shop yesterday as I was buying a new phone.

We were chatting as we went through setting up the contract and such and when the shiny new phone came out of the box I said “It looks just lovely, doesn’t it?”

The salesman replied “Yeah, I guess…” It wasn’t the most enthusiastic answer.

“Do you have one? I bet you do.” said my Girlfriend.

Again, the salesman looked sheepish. “I have to admit,” he said “And this may surprise you, but I am not really into phones. I do this job cos I like people and I like selling, and, well, it pays the bills…” He looked down and was slightly embarrassed.


Here’s my admission.

I am not into aircraft.

I am in the RAF and I am not bothered about airshows, aircraft, and all the hardware that goes with them.

Does that make me a bad airman?

I have to qualify the statement that I am not into aircraft though.  I know enough about them for my job, and I keep an awareness enough to be up to date on what is going on. I can identify and name aircraft as required, albeit to say…that’s an F-18, or that’s a C-130 Hercules…but I couldn’t identify a mark or what variant a particular aircraft is.

I have an interest in historical aircraft – particularly the RAF’s aircraft of World War 2, but it is more out of respect and reverence than anything else.

I have to point out here I have nothing against people who DO find aircraft interesting. It’s all part of life’s pageant isn’t it? People who are interested in aircraft and trains and cars and books and anything else that people are interested in is all just another thread of the rich tapestry of our island story. What interests you, is what interests you. What interests me, is what interests me.

It’s just that aircraft don’t really interest me that much! I don’t mind watching a display by a jet or helicopter, as long as it is doing something interesting! Often they are quite pretty to look at (saaaaaaaay a Typhoon) or do something interesting in the air (like maybe a Chinook), or sounds amazing (like a Merlin engined Spitfire). But they are just a passing interest.

You see, I have spent 23 years in the RAF. Of which, I spent 12 years or so working directly on Tornado F3’s in one way or another. And I guess a bit of familiarity has bred a bit of contempt. They are a job of work. They are just a machine that I had to crawl over, around and under to work on. Getting covered in oil, coolanol, fuel and all sorts of stuff…well, that takes the shine of doesn’t it.

When you come back in and you smell really, really bad cos you have had hydraulic oil poured over you from a leaking pipe…it dulls the experience doesn’t it? I once had hot aviation fuel (direct from a vent of the engine) splashed into my eye. I had an opinion of aircraft after that, I can tell you…

I am proud of being in the RAF. I am proud of what we do. I am proud of the equipment and the people we have in it. But I am just not that interested in the aircraft in them.  As I said, I keep up to date, so I know what we have, and what is going on. What the implications of their introduction and maintenance mean. The roles they play and the tasks they have. But that, to me is work stuff. It’s not really something that I want in my personal time…

But I need to put in a disclaimer though. As I hinted at earlier…I do love old aircraft. Particularly World War 2 RAF aircraft. But it is more to do with the impact of them on history. When I hear a piston engined aircraft at any time, I check my hearing to make sure it is a vintage aircraft.  I’ll make a point of going outside if it is a Merlin or Griffen engine.  And when I go out and see a Spitfire, or Hurricane, or the Lancaster fly past, I get that sense of pride…pride in what those aircraft did, what they stand for, what they mean…And a sense of pride that I am part of an organisation and that the equipment, and more importantly, the people work constantly to ensure that tradition is maintained and that history is upheld…I guess the modern aircraft are as much a symbol of that as the vintage ones, but, to me the older ones mean a lot more to me and the modern ones are, just well, work…

This is a shocking revelation isn’t it? I just ask that you don’t judge me too harshly as a result of it…


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9 thoughts on “An admission…and this may shock you…

  1. Honey on said:

    My brother felt the same as you but had some problems in basic training and never quite made it into the RAF but as a family we all race outside to see the spitfire etc but the new stuff just makes lots of noise!

  2. Bad airman??..not at all! As you say, we each have our own interests in life, whatever job it is we do.

    You clearly love being in the RAF, and what you do in the RAF, which is all that matters.

    Keep up the great work with your blog posts..always a fascinating insight.

  3. mrsljhall on said:

    You do an important job. So long as you do it well and do it to the best of your ability, that’s all that matters.

  4. Laura A on said:

    “They are a job of work. They are just a machine that I had to crawl over, around and under to work on. Getting covered in oil, coolanol, fuel and all sorts of stuff…well, that takes the shine of doesn’t it.”

    Indeed. You’ve seen the less glamorous side of things which we civilians never do, or even think about. People tend to think that the pilots are the heroes, even though without a good and loyal ground crew, they’d never get into the air.

    Generally speaking, if someone manages to work and make a living out of something they are really, really into, they are very lucky. Very few people manage to keep up a massive enthusiasm for something they’ve chosen as their career for decades on end. I am expecting my own work to become a “chore” eventually, once I get so familiar with the routine and have less completely new things to learn. Though I do hope that I never lose my interest entirely in my profession and the geeky sides of it.

    What you clearly were saying is that you’re really not an aircraft geek. And I won’t blame you for that, especially since you’ve seen the ugly side of them and had them misbehave. It’s the same thing with hospital lab analysers with me, I just want them to work for me and not break down at 17:23 on a Friday afternoon. On top of that, some of us have a greater tendency to become geeky than others.

    It is clear that there are so many positive sides to working in the RAF, and being part of the RAF family, otherwise you would not have stayed there for over 20 years.

  5. Big Bro on said:

    Well, that’s where we are so very different!! I absolutely LOVED the different aircraft worked on – except maybe the Wessex. The dirtier I got the better I liked it. I think my favourite was the Herc especially as I was an authorised Engine Ground Runner – installation ground runs were a blast. Regardless of your like or dislike of them, enjoy the proximity to them that you currently have, before it is all taken away and you have no choice but to go to airshows to see them perform!!

  6. Brian B-W on said:

    Interesting that you’re not interested in the aircraft per se. I was (am) quite the opposite. I joined the RAF at the age of 17, and spent 22 years “in the mob”. Whilst I didn’t enjoy each and every posting – some jobs were more interesting than others – I loved being around aircraft.

    I did a PPL (Private Pilot’s Licence) while based at Laarbruch, although my RAF trade was as a photographer, mostly on reconnaissance exploitation. I’ve been an aircraft junkie since my first flight at age 11 – a birthday present from an aunt. Unlike you I didn’t have to climb around, under, on aircraft, and I reckon that if I had I might’ve had an equally jaundiced view of them as objects.

    I’ve long since left the air force now, but am still an aircraft addict – even at an age when I should know better.

  7. Vivdora on said:

    I am the proud owner of a bit of a Spitfire, it belonged to my father

  8. Identify just how you feel Winger you work on the outside of an Aircraft i work on the inside of a Submarine ..Navy days and Air shows are a bit like Taking a Busmans Holiday for me too.

    It is our Job and we do it to the best of our abilities ..When i get Home after a Patrol i just want to pretend i am A civilian and Relax with my Family.

    ps: i dont like Submarines they are Smelly – Hot – Cramped and not very Pleasant.


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