Student pilots join the Royal Air Force (RAF) either as direct entrants or graduate entrants. The first step in becoming an RAF pilot is the 30 week Initial Officer Training course at RAF Cranwell. This course is designed to prepare entrants for their responsibilities as RAF junior officers. The course includes drill, assault courses, initiative tests and survival training. Programme for a graduation ceremony at RAF Cranwell, 1990

On completion, students proceed to one of the three, RAF Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS). Each year around 160 students pass through these Schools. The elementary course takes about four months to complete, during which time pupils receive flying lessons in the Grob Tutor, academic instruction and general service training. Students must pass a final handling test before they are deemed qualified to progress further. By the end of the course instructors will be able to stream pupils into either the fast jet, rotary wing (helicopters), or multi-engine pathway.

Skills taught in the elementary stage of flying training

Once the student pilots enter a particular pathway, their specialist training begins. Each pathway requires very different skills and not all pupils are able to master them. Pilots can be ‘re-streamed’ if found unsuitable for one class of aircraft.

A pilot’s training is completed at an Operational Conversion Unit. There are currently six conversion units in the RAF that prepare aircrew for operations on a particular type or types of aircraft.

RAF training pathways showing a trainee’s progress