FROM EVERYTHING AEROSPACE: AN INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Interview: Fast-jet RAF pilot Jules Thurston, 28


Can you tell us about your current role?

I'm a pilot based at RAF Lossiemouth at the Operational Conversion Unit. Prior to joining this unit I was an instructor for the Hawk, which prepares pilots for the basics of fast-jet operations. I'm now being trained to fly the Tornado GR4. The course is about seven months long and I am halfway through. After that I will move into frontline operations, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk for two to three years.

How did your career start out?

It's thanks to my dad that I became a fast-jet pilot; he has been a pilot for many years. For my 17th birthday he gave me my first flying lesson and recommended that I pursue flying further. I had been keen on joining the military from the age of 15, but never thought I could achieve a flying job. However, with my dad's support and some good advice at school about RAF careers, I got a RAF Flying Scholarship at 18 and eventually received a Private Pilot's Licence (PPL).

Did you then go to university?

I never really wanted to go to university; I was always more of a hands-on person and not really the best academic. So, I applied to the army, the RAF and some other airline programmes. The RAF was the one I was most interested in and I took up a place with them shortly after applying.

What selection criteria did you have to meet?

Many people think you have to get three grade As at A-level in maths and science subjects only. However, I only got two A-levels (a B and a D), one of which was in art. This was a concern for me but I had done lots of extra-curricular activities, such as horse-riding and sports, and had references saying I was a good teamworker - reliable and pro-active. These activities were just as important in the interview. I got lots of useful advice from the RAF careers office about the interview and having applied previously for the RAF scholarships I knew what to expect.

What about fitness?

I realised I wasn't the fittest person in the world so prepared for the selection by going to the gym four times a week!

What's a typical day like for you?

No two days are the same. Today I had to get up at 5.30am for a 6.00am start, finishing around 3.00pm. On other days I start later, at around lunchtime, but finish around 11.00pm because of night-flying activities. The training involves lots of reading, taught instruction hours, groundwork, flying in the simulator and briefings, as well as other stuff.

What are the best bits about your job?

The people I've met! Fast-jet flying is fantastic but it wouldn't be so good if the people weren't fantastic. Having said that, the feeling you get flying low-level at 500 knots (about 600mph) is pretty unbeatable!

Are there any negative aspects?

At the moment I don't get to see my family very often - north Scotland is a long way from East Anglia, where they are from. Maintaining relationships can be difficult but my friends outside the military are very supportive, coming up for our summer ball and helping when things get stressful and I need an escape. I also have a horse that I miss very much at the moment.

Are you the only female pilot?

There are about 10 female fast-jet pilots and a further 10 navigators. However, there are a lot of serving female rotary-wing and multi-engine pilots.

Are you treated differently?

I try not to make an issue of it and no air crew has made an issue of it either. I'm treated normally. I always try to be myself - I don't try to be "one of the boys" and I like to keep my femininity. I think people respect you a lot more for that. At my RAF interview I was honest about wanting to start a family one day, but that hasn't stopped me getting promoted.

What are your future plans?

I am keen to spend a few years flying at RAF Marham where there are lots of exciting opportunities. There is the opportunity to instruct on the new Hawk 128 in the future, either as a full-time military instructor or as a reservist. I would also love to try something completely different and possibly cross over into Search and Rescue.

What advice would you give to a young person wanting to pursue a similar career?

Remember to be yourself. Getting good exam marks stands up well but having a proactive nature and the right skills will benefit you too. I try and take up interesting opportunities that come my way, even winning a place in an all-expenses-paid Formula Woman race series a couple of years ago, which was a great experience. You only live once!

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Trainee Software Developer / Graduate Developer / Junior Software Engineer

£13 - 16k + Training & Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We have a unique oppo...

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Test Systems - Graduate 2015

Competitive Salary & Benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: Role Purpose: Exciting opportunit...

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Manufacturing Test Graduate 2015

Flexible working, annual bonus & more: MBDA UK Ltd: Graduate opportunity withi...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created