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Caroline Plumb - CEO of Fresh Minds and youngest woman on Management Today's '35 under 35' list

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RAF Pilots Visit Beech House

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

RAF pilot Paul Hutton and ex-RAF pilot John Dunning were under heavy fire at Beech House today! They were met with a barrage of questions from the Year 2 pupils, who were really excited to meet these two high-flyers.

Both are alumni of the Boys' Division and went on to fly with the RAF. Paul became involved while studying engineering at university, and decided to train as a pilot when he finished his degree. John, who is not a commercial airline pilot, also talked to the Year 2 pupils about why he joined the RAF: “I never had a bad day – every day was brilliant. It’s a great job, because you get to fly every day.”

Paul added that there is another bonus: when they fly up above the clouds they can enjoy the sunshine, even when there is bad weather on the ground.

The two pilots talked about different kinds of aircraft, from the Typhoon, which is capable of flying at twice the speed of sound, to the airbuses that take passengers on their holidays and weigh as much as 350 elephants when fully loaded! They explained that planes fly at 700mph at an altitude of 40,000 feet, and achieve take off at a speed of 60 to 70mph. The children were fascinated by this, especially when Paul mentioned that this means that a car could take off when driving along the motorway – if it had the right equipment!

Paul, who was wearing his operational kit, passed around several additional pieces of uniform. He let the children hold a helmet to feel how thick and heavy it was to provide protection. He had also brought a field service cap and dress hat, and while the children examined them he explained the meaning of their crown and eagle badges. The children were really excited to be able to try on the different hats and helmet, and were also fascinated by Paul’s gas mask!

Both pilots encouraged questions throughout the session, and these came thick and fast. Some had even been written as part of the pupils’ homework! The pupils asked about ejector seats, and were told that pilots can only eject twice for safety reasons before they can no longer fly planes equipped with this feature, because of the effect of the pressure – which can compress the spine and make pilots an inch shorter! Paul explained meaning behind the RAF motto, ‘Per Ardua ad Astra’ or ‘Through adversity to the stars’, which one of the pupils had looked up. John told the pupils about emergency evacuation of a commercial aircraft, and explained that although it takes 40 minutes to get everyone on board, they have to be able to evacuate in under 90 seconds to meet safety standards! The pilots also discussed the more serious aspects of being part of the RAF: being a soldier and protecting people, and the dangers of being a pilot.

At the end of the session, Paul taught the children how to properly perform an RAF salute as a sign of respect to a superior officer.

The final question asked both pilots what they would have done if they had not joined the RAF. Paul said that he probably would have been a lawyer, whereas John wasn’t sure. However, he told the children: “We both found something that we love to do, flying planes – and that’s something everyone should do.”

This great advice was the perfect end to a fantastic experience. At the end of the session, the children presented the two pilots with copies of their End of Year Book as a memento.

Both pilots are alumni of the Boys' Division.

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Year 2 pupils don their flight goggles

Year 2 pupils don their 'flight goggles'!

Two of the girls salute Paul Hutton

Two of the girls salute pilot Paul Hutton

RAF pilot Paul Hutton and ex-RAF pilot John Dunning

RAF pilot Paul Hutton and ex-RAF pilot John Dunning