In this the third and final part of the DHFS podcasts I’m interviewing Flight Lieutenant Stu Walker. Stu invited me down to RAF Shawbury, arranged my visit and the interviews with the various personnel on the base.
Stu’s story is quite an interesting one and so I thought it would make a good stand-alone podcast in its own right. In this interview Stu tells me how he wanted to join the RAF from an early age.
Initially his aim was to become a front-line fighter pilot but you can hear how his military career progressed through flight training, flying Nimrods, doing a masters degree is Aero Systems, working in the Flight Information Publications department and then on to flying helicopters.
Stu grew up in the Lake District and often saw RAF jets flying around the fells. This is what spurred the young Stu to join the Air Force. He initially wanted to fly Tornados but as we’ll hear, this dream didn’t quite materialise.
He joined the Air Training Corps at 15, did his A-levels and then went on to study Physics at university where he joined the universities air squadron. Having been sponsored by the RAF at university he was contracted to join the RAF upon completion of his degree. His elementary flight training was on Bulldogs and his first posting was at RAF Cranwell. He was selected for multi-engine training rather than fast jets and so continued his training on Fireflies and Jetstreams before being posted to a Nimrod squadron at RAF Kinloss.
After his time on Nimrods, Stu moved on to study Aero Systems, an RAF masters degree course, at RAF Cranwell.
From here Stu was expecting to go back on to Nimrods but instead he was posted to RAF Northolt and the AIDU – Aeronautical Information Documents Unit. This is basically the unit that produces, amongst other things, the aeronautical maps for all of the RAF and although paper maps are still the order of the day, the military are moving towards doing things digitally. So for four and a half years Stu was involved in the procurement of digital data systems for the RAF.
After his time at Northolt Stu was ready to get back to flying and, as luck would have it, he asked to move on to rotary training at a time when the need for helicopter pilots was increasing. This resulted in him being posted to the DHFS at RAF Shawbury to be trained to fly helicopters. As at the time of our interview, Stu had just completed his rotary training and was looking forward to transferring to RAF Benson to be trained up on Pumas with a longer term view to be involved in the ‘hot and high’ Puma redeployment ops in Kenya.
In the even longer term, given that fast jets and flight testing have probably passed him by, Stu says that the ideal job for him would be back at DHFS as a helicopter flight instructor.
Best of luck to Stu and all of his colleagues that I met at RAF Shawbury.