Royal Navy Flying

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When you put on your ‘wings’ as a Fleet Air Arm Pilot, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve completed one of the most demanding training programmes in aviation to be part of Royal Navy Flying

Royal Navy Pilot requirements

Naval Service life can be mentally and physically demanding and you will need to be medically fit to meet the challenges ahead. The application process includes a full physical and medical assessment to ensure you meet the standards required. The final decision regarding fitness to join the Naval Service is made by Royal Navy medical staff.

Health & Fitness Requirements

There are pre-existing medical conditions and on-going illnesses that may prevent you from joining the Naval Service. You should check the guidance on eyesight standards and the sample list of pre-existing conditions contained at the following:

The table is for general guidance only as many conditions that are compatible with civilian employment and sport may be incompatible with military service. This list is not exhaustive, so if you have a medical condition that is not listed, or if you are unsure whether your medical history may affect your eligibility to join, please seek further advice from Royal Navy medical staff.

Height and Weight BMI

All Naval Service applicants require a minimum height of 151.5cm should be within the healthy range for Body Mass Index (BMI).

AgeMale and female minimumMale and female maximumMale maximum with additional assessmentFemale maximum with additional assessment
18 +1828 3230

Fitness Standards

All members of the Naval Service are required to be physically fit to a standard which enables them to perform their duties effectively in the most demanding of environments. Your fitness will be checked during the Pre-Joining Fitness Test, during selection testing and during the first weeks of training. As part of the application process, you will be required to complete a 2.4km run on a treadmill at a local fitness centre. To pass you must complete the run in less time than that allowed for your age in the table below:

Royal Navy Pre Joining Fitness TestAge 15 – 24
Male11 min 9 secs
Female13 min 10 secs

Becoming a Pilot

Aircrew Officer Pilot

When you put on your ‘wings’ as a Fleet Air Arm Pilot, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve completed one of the most demanding training programmes in aviation. Operating from ships at sea and land bases around the world, you’ll be flying over hostile territory and inhospitable terrain, with ultimate responsibility for the safety of your aircraft and your crew, as well as your mission.

If you’re flying helicopters, you’ll develop the skills you’ll need to drop a troop of Royal Marines Commandos, and their equipment, into action, carry out surveillance and anti-submarine operations and fly reconnaissance missions (missions to gather information) over land and sea.

As a fast jet Pilot, you’ll have the flying and tactical skills needed for manoeuvres at speeds well over 1000 mph.

It’s a challenging and demanding career choice, but one that brings huge professional and personal rewards.

Courtesy MOD
Courtesy MOD

Residency requirements

As part of the security checking process for entry into the Naval Service all candidates, irrespective of nationality, should normally have resided in the United Kingdom* or Ireland continuously (other than for overseas holidays not exceeding 28 days in any one year) for a minimum of five years immediately prior to your application to join.  Applicants with less than five years residency will be considered providing they meet either of the following criteria:

Lived in the UK or Ireland continuously for at least the last three years immediately prior to application


Lived in the UK or Eire, non-continuously for a total of four years out of the last five. This would allow, for example, candidates that have travelled/worked/studied abroad for no more than twelve months in the last five years to qualify for minimum residency.

However, the Royal Navy accept applications from British Nationals wherever they are, and recognise the valuable experience which people will have gained from living, studying and working overseas.  Whether this is a result of you or your parents being employed abroad or travelling on a gap year.  The residency status of the candidate’s parents or partner is not normally considered during standard security checks although this can be relevant for certain job types.  If you do not meet the residency criteria stated there may still be an opportunity for you to join on a short term security clearance having provided additional documentary evidence, until the standard period of residency is achieved and you are able to gain full clearance.

*For the purpose of this document the United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and for these purposes the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The role of the Pilot

Can you think on your feet while you’re in mid-air? You’ll need to as Pilot in the Royal Navy. At all times, and wherever you are in the world, whether you’re flying in pitch black, or carrying out a daytime search and rescue operation. This is a role that’s all about aptitude at altitude, and it goes without saying it takes a special kind of person to do it. Whether you’re flying a Wildcat helicopter or being one of the first to fly the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, you’ll become a master of mission-focused flying.

Age & Education

Age: 17 to 25, Male and Female.

Educational Qualifications: 180 UCAS points and five GCSEs (A* to C) or Scottish Standard grades or equivalent, which must include English and Maths. For direct graduate entry, you’ll need a degree or equivalent, 180 UCAS points and five GCSEs (A* to C) or Scottish Standard grades or equivalent, which must include English and Maths.  Equivalent educational qualifications are considered. You’ll also have to pass flying aptitude tests at RAFC Cranwell.

Personal Qualities

You must have the commitment and physical and mental stamina to cope with the long and demanding training. You’ll need to be calm, confident and decisive under pressure. But you’ll need to develop more than just flying and tactical skills – first and foremost you are a Royal Navy officer.

You’ll have to manage your own workload, be flexible, adaptable and completely reliable and give your very best at all times. You’ll also need leadership skills and have proven ability to work as part of a small, dedicated and highly-skilled team.

Aptitude Testing

All successful applicants will undertake several aptitude tests using a computer at the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) at the RAF College Cranwell in Lincolnshire. The tests measure your ability to perform specific tasks, such as:

  • how well you respond physically to visual information
  • your ability to interpret information in two dimensions and devise a three-dimensional solution
  • your ability to complete several tasks simultaneously

You will also be tested on a wide range of your natural abilities, including:

  • deductive reasoning
  • spatial reasoning
  • work rate and concentration
  • verbal and numerical reasoning
Courtesy MOD
Courtesy MOD


There is no cost to learning to fly, unlike commercial aviation, you will be paid to learn how to fly from the outset.

See ‘What’s next?‘ for details of pay and conditions.

Honours Degree

You can earn a BSc honours degree while learning to fly with the Royal Navy. The FAA Military Aviation Academy offers a fully funded, 30-month degree in aviation which is accredited by the Open University. As a school or college leaver, you will be able to gain an honours degree by training to become an operational pilot.

From the moment you begin your training, right through to the point at which you are awarded your ‘wings’, you will be earning credit points towards a degree while also getting paid your full salary. And, throughout your career, you’ll gain further qualifications accredited by other academic institutions and leading professional and industrial organisations. All are recognised internationally and will be highly valued by civilian employers.

This will greatly improve your prospects of a second career if you decide to leave the Royal Navy. Royal Navy Pilot training is accredited with the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA). With the right experience and exams, you will be able to gain a commercial Pilot’s licence.


Initial Training

The first step to becoming a pilot is to pass the Flying Aptitude Tests at RAFC Cranwell and the Admiralty Interview Board.  After this it’s 9 months of Initial Officer Training at the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth. Then 15 weeks of Initial warfare officer (aircrew) course at BRNC.

The course is split into two, 15-week phases.

These are:

  • Military Skills 15 weeks
  • Maritime Skills 15 weeks + initial ship acquaint (3 weeks)

The military skills phase includes learning leadership and teamwork skills and the principles of command and management. You will put these into practice during two exercises on Dartmoor.

During the maritime skills phase you’ll be taught to handle small ships on the River Dart and there will be exercises to test you.

In the Initial Ship Acquaint, , you will spend up to 3 weeks at sea, working in every department on board, learning how the ship operates and gaining first-hand experience of life in a warship.

Finally, you will attend your passing out parade, where your family and friends will have the opportunity to witness you joining the Royal Navy as an Officer.

Professional Training

The exact course and length of training after BRNC depends on whether you learn to fly helicopters or the next generation of fast jets.

Flying training starts with a three week Flying Grading package at 727 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton. This is designed to assess potential in order to pass the demanding training ahead. Once you have passed this you are allocated a place on an Elementary Flying Training (EFT) course at 703 Naval Air Squadron at RAF Barkston Heath flying the Grob G120TP Prefect aircraft.  However, before you start there are a couple of professional courses to do to begin the development of being a Naval Aviator, such as learning to be a fire-fighter at sea or to repair battle damage on a ship, aviation medicine, Underwater escape training, Survival courses (Air 424).  Once EFT is complete trainees are streamed to either helicopters or fast jets.



Fast Jet pilots join their RAF counterparts and go onto the Tucano for Basic Fast Jet training at RAF Linton-on-Ouse on 72 (R) Squadron. Thereafter, it’s off to RAF Valley in Anglesey to fly the Hawk aircraft on IV(R) Squadron before arriving at your Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for your designated fast jet aircraft training.



For helicopter pilots, post EFT it’s off to 705 Naval Air Squadron / 660 Squadron AAC at RAF Shawbury to learn to fly the Squirrel. Upon completion of the Single Engine Rotary Wing Course, you will be role disposed to either the Merlin or Wildcat. Students selected for the Merlin MK3/4 will complete an Advanced Multi-Engine Rotary Wing Course at 60 Squadron flying the Griffin before moving to the OCU for your designated aircraft. Students selected for the Lynx / Merlin Mk2 will move to the Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU) at RAF Valley for a conversion course prior to moving to the OCU for your designated aircraft.


Pay and conditions/Promotion

Royal Navy pay compares well with similar civilian jobs. Upon entry you will earn as an Aircrew Officer £25,727 rising to over £45,000 depending upon the rank that you achieve in the Royal Navy ( 2016 Pay Scales).  In addition, you’ll get specialist (recruitment and retention) pay of £14.49 per day upon completion of professional training, rising to a maximum of £46.04 per day ( 2016 Pay Scales).  With effect from September 2013, all new direct entry officers, regardless of educational qualifications and branch, will join as a Midshipman Royal Navy on a starting salary of £25,727. You’ll also receive extra money when you’re away at sea.

There is also an excellent non-contributory pension scheme that will be transferred to a new Armed Force Pension Scheme (AFPS) scheduled for 2015, which will be based around career average earnings.

In addition, there are six weeks’ paid holiday a year and free medical and dental care. You’ll generally join on an initial commission, which is for 12 years. You may have the opportunity to serve beyond this, depending on what you want and the needs of the Royal Navy. If you want to leave, you can send your request one year before completing your specified return of service.

For all officers, the opportunities for promotion are excellent. To help you with your career, you’ll be offered plenty of feedback, encouragement and training. You’ll be promoted to Lieutenant automatically as long as you pass your professional training and perform to the level required. After that, you’ll be chosen on merit for promotion to Lieutenant Commander and beyond.

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