Paul is an RAF Officer and recently came to School to talk to the infants and juniors about his career
What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?
I particularly enjoyed Physics and Maths at school. Miss Taylor (Chemistry) and Mr Brace (German), although they didn't teach my favourite subjects, were my favourite teachers. Mr Brace was both a fantastic form tutor and German teacher and Miss Taylor helped me with a subject that I didn't find the easiest nor the most interesting.
What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?
After Bolton School I went on to study Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College London before starting a Graduate Diploma in Law at the University of Law in Bristol. Engineering was hard work and the GDL involved a lot of case studying, but both of these cities were enjoyable (if expensive) places to live.
How did you progress to your current role and what does it involve?
I applied to join the RAF at university and was offered a bursary. Whilst studying I had to join the University of London Air Squadron where I started flying and sampling life in the RAF. After graduating I completed a 9-month officer training course at RAFC Cranwell before starting flying training at RAF Wyton.
My current role involves learning the basics of flying (including aerobatics, emergency drills, and navigation) in a Grob Tutor; a 2-seat single-engined propeller aircraft. On top of my primary role I also have to fulfil duties expected of an officer, such as being the station's Orderly Officer and attending commemorative parades.
What/who influenced your career choice?
In primary school I always wanted to be an astronaut, but as reality dawned that I wasn't 'American' enough to get into space I set my sights a little lower. I was initially inspired to join the RAF at Patterdale after seeing the fast-jet trainees annoying hill walkers in the peaceful valleys of the Lake District. I realised then that flying would be a thrilling job and also that a career in the armed forces would allow me the opportunity to continue the sports and extracurricular interests that I enjoyed at School. I haven't looked back since.
What skills are essential for your role?
To be successful in flying training I'd say the essential skills are co-ordination, a good memory, high mental capacity – and patience, lots and lots of patience.
What are the biggest challenges?
Learning new skills and techniques every day is challenging and then being tested on them almost immediately is both mentally and physically draining. Although you don't get much free time in training you really need to make the most of your time off when you get it.
What/who has been your biggest inspiration?
My dad has always been my inspiration to work hard and do the best I can. He achieved so much and had a fantastic career, working his way from the bottom to the top in a very successful company.
However, there were very few military influences in my family. My uncle did work for BAE as an engineer on the Eurofighter and would give me posters of it to put on my bedroom walls. I guess staring at fast-jet aircraft everyday of your teenage years rubs off on you a bit.
My cousin was also a pilot for BAE and once treated my sister and me to a flight over Blackpool Illuminations as a birthday treat. That was a glorious experience that is still vivid in my memory.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
Hopefully when I'm fully trained and flying operationally I'll have opportunities every day to help and assist people, which I'll view as achievements for the years of training that got me there. However, up to now my proudest moment has definitely been graduating from RAF College Cranwell as a Flying Officer in front of my family and (soon to be) fiancée.
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
Bolton School gave me so many experiences that have helped me get to where I am today. Obviously the teachers at such a great School helped me achieve the best grades I could, but the extra-curricular opportunities, including School camps, trips to Patterdale, swimming, water polo, rugby and orienteering, gave me the experiences that truly make me who I am and allowed me to get the job I always wanted.
Why did you offer your assistance to School?
I simply wanted to give something back to a School that had given me so much. I would also love to see more Bolton School pupils pursue careers in aviation and particularly in the RAF as the School produces such well-rounded individuals with many varied interests, who I think could have hugely enjoyable careers in the armed forces. If I inspired even the slightest spark of interest in my job from one of the children then I'm happy.
Did you enjoy talking to the Juniors?
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to the juniors. Their passion and curiosity in anything and everything was great to see. Also their ability to pose no-holes-barred questions genuinely gave me reason to pause and think about aspects of my job that others wouldn't even think to ask about. It was a refreshing change!