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International Pilots' Day - April 26th 2023


Paul Shakespeare, Head of Flight Operations

  1. What are you most proud of in your career?
    Probably my journey from very humble beginnings to becoming the (final) Officer commanding the UK MOD’s Fast Jet Test Squadron.
  2. What are your words of advice to any aspirational pilot?
    Don’t ever tell yourself you can’t do something. There are plenty of people out there ready to do that; just get your head down and go for it and you may just be pleasantly surprised.
  3. How long did it take to become a qualified pilot?
    Solo in gliders aged 16, RAF Flying Scholarship and PPL at 17. Three years at university, flying Bulldogs on the university Air Squadron, then another three years on T37s, T-38s and Hawks until being fully qualified on the Tornado.
  4. What skills and qualities are important in becoming a pilot?
    You need to be reasonably sharp and have good hand eye coordination but to me, the biggest factor is determination. Never, ever give up, however hard things get.
  5. What qualifications did you need to become a pilot?
    I think back in my day, it was a minimum of five O-levels (GCSEs), but I did A-levels and an Engineering degree, which has served me well since.
  6. Is there a moment of high pressure/stress you can remember from your time as a pilot? If so, what was it?
    There have been a number of moments that have raised the heart rate, such as experiencing a Tornado engine failure, flying very fast and low over 200 miles off the coast. Our training always kicks in though as there is a job to be done to get back safely. Nobody else is going to do it so you learn to depend on yourself and (if you have one!) your crew.
  7. Has the industry changed much during your career? If so, have you had to adapt?
    Very much so. Some good and some not so good changes. I am just grateful to have lived and worked through them as nothing stands still in our business; it’s the nature of testing!
  8. What makes ETPS a special place to learn?
    Everything! Its history, the quality of the training we provide and most of all, the amazing team of people who work there.