Chris is Head of Flight Operations at Babcock Mission Critical Services. He flew military helicopters with the RAF for 16 years before becoming an Air Ambulance pilot and Flight Examiner. Recently, he was promoted to Line Manager for the Company’s nearly 100 pilots.
He has been married to Pamela for ten years, has three boys aged 11, 9 and 7 and lives in Tewkesbury.
What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?
I spent ten years at Bolton School being taught by many exemplary teachers. I especially enjoyed Technology with Mr Whitmarsh and being part of the School Water Polo team with Mr Pledger.
What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?
I joined the RAF at 18 and have since gained both my military and commercial flying licences. I’ve also completed a range of Open University courses.
What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?
In 1989, I was awarded a Royal Air Force Sixth Form Scholarship and from that moment, my career path was set. Upon leaving Bolton School in 1992, I immediately joined the RAF and after graduating as an Officer, I started three years of intense pilot training. Gaining my wings in 1996, I was posted to my first operational tour, flying the Wessex Helicopter with 72 Squadron in Northern Ireland. This was followed by a further 3 years on the Wessex, this time in the sunnier climes of Cyprus and changing role to fly Search and Rescue missions with 84 Squadron.
Returning to the UK in 2002, I was posted to RAF Odiham and there trained to fly the most versatile of all battlefield helicopters, the Chinook. Joining 18 Squadron, I soon found myself deployed to operate in countries as far flung as Norway, Morocco, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Cyprus and the Falklands. My final three years in the RAF were as a Qualified Helicopter Instructor, helping to train future generations of Chinook Pilots.
After sixteen years of service, I made the difficult decision to leave the RAF and move into the civilian sector and in 2008, I joined Bond Air Services as an Air Ambulance Pilot based in Inverness. The following year I was selected for training as one of the Company Flight Examiners, which meant another move, this time to the company HQ in Gloucestershire. After five years in that position, which included a diversity of roles such as teaching and examining on both EC135 and EC145 helicopters, the successful introduction of the UK’s first Night Air Ambulance NVG Operations and hoist winching to Offshore Windfarms, I was successfully promoted to Head of Flight Operations. I now combine the role of Line Manager to nearly 100 Air Ambulance pilots, (including a certain member of the Royal Family), as well as continuing to fly operational duties when needed.
Who/what influenced your career choice?
Mr Shaw was directly responsible for me gaining a Sixth Form Scholarship with the RAF, which enabled me to start Officer training immediately upon leaving school.
Who/what has been your biggest inspiration?
Having only recently re-discovered the Bugle and Development Office, I’ve been freshly inspired by the successes of my fellow Old Bolts, some of whom I spent my 10 years studying alongside.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
As a pilot, mental capacity and the ability to deal with rapidly changing scenarios. As a manager, the ability to deal with pilots!
What do you like most about your job?
Being an Air Ambulance pilot, it’s a privilege being part of a team to help save lives, the downside being the horrific scenes involved.
What is your biggest challenge in your current role?
Managing the flight operations for twenty air ambulance bases (and writing the annual appraisal for a certain Duke!)
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?
There have been several milestones in my career. Graduating as an RAF Officer, earning my pilot wings, employment as an Air Ambulance pilot and more recently, promotion to Head of Flight Operations.
How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?
Bolton School was integral to my gaining an RAF Sixth Form Scholarship. Without that award, my career would have undoubtedly taken a different path.
What advice would you give to our pupils interested in your field of work?
Talk to as many people as possible in order to gain a realistic view of what lies ahead. Life as a front line pilot can evoke a certain degree of glamour, but it’s a long, hard and testing road to get there.