Ellie is aiming high for a career as an RAF fighter pilot
Ellie Lovatt, in Year 12, devotes a huge amount of her time to the RAF Cadets. Holding the rank of Corporal, and a member of the Central and East Yorkshire netball team, Ellie has demonstrated enormous dedication and resilience. Ellie is hoping to join the RAF as a fighter pilot. We were delighted to catch up with Ellie to find out about her work in the RAF cadets, as well as her earlier involvement in the Brownies, Scouts and Explorers. Please follow the link below to find out about Ellie’s truly inspirational experiences and the excellent advice she offers for students on how to develop their skills and seek out new challenges. We hope this will inspire other students to get involved in similar groups.
Why did you choose to join the Brownies, Scouts and Explorers and what did you learn from these groups in terms of new skills, leadership and teamwork?
I started Brownies after I moved to the area, as it was a good way to make new friends and become part of the community. When I reached the age where you leave to join the Guides, I decided I wanted to join the local scout group instead as I’ve always been keen on outdoor activities such as climbing, walking and sailing and I knew from my sister that I would be able to do more of that in Scouts then Guides. I had an amazing time doing all sorts of activities – I’m always keen to learn new things so I tried my hand at every opportunity I got. I achieved my Bronze chief scout award and spent a couple of years as a “Patrol Leader”. It was a natural progression to move on to the Explorers. We decided as a group to undertake our Bronze D of E and I volunteered as a young leader at the scout group as I really wanted to give back, as I recalled how much I had loved interacting with the young leaders when I was in scouts. Overall, I would say that from the groups I gained some amazing memories, skills and friends along with an increased sense of adventure and a passion for leadership and team activities. One day I would like to return to scouting as a leader, in order to give back to the group that taught me so much.
What inspired you to join the RAF Cadets?
I have wanted to be in the military since I was twelve. It wasn’t until I was attending a community event with Explorers that I discovered the Air Cadets and there was an established Squadron near to where I lived! I signed up on the spot and began as a Probationer in June 2018. For a while, I was extremely busy, out of the house at least five nights a week, and eventually chose to leave everything other than cadets so I could prioritise working towards my GCSEs. However, there are so many opportunities in Cadets, so I never truly felt like I had lost something when I left Scouting – I knew i had gained everything I could and it was time to focus on other things.
What rank did you start at and when did you become a Corporal?
I began as a ‘probationer’ when I enrolled as a Cadet in October 2018 and was promoted to Corporal in November 2019. To be eligible for promotion you must have been part of the Squadron for a minimum of a year. A Corporal is known as a JNCO (junior non-commissioned officer), the ranks above are Sergeant, Flight Sergeant and Cadet Warrant Officer and these are known as SNCOs (senior non-commissioned officers). It takes years of dedication to the Cadets and near-perfect behaviour to achieve the highest rank. My squadron of around 25 has four Corporals, two Sergeants, two Flight Sergeants and one Cadet Warrant Officer – any position of authority is not given lightly.
What do you typically do at the Cadets?
In ‘normal’ times we would parade twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 7:00 – 9:30. Camps take place from Friday evening until Sunday, and Inter-Wing events, such as Sports and Road Marching, take place on a Sunday. Longer camps also take place during school holidays. A high attendance during the week is expected, especially if you have hopes of being promoted. We cover a huge variety of topics in Cadets, including classroom-based learning and more active activities such as fieldcraft, first aid and leadership.) Due to Covid, we have only had a few face-to-face meetings since last March. Instead, we have had ‘virtual’ Cadets once a week where we have been doing more of the classroom-type work.
What skills have you learnt from being a cadet?
I have learnt numerous skills so far, most predominantly I have developed my self confidence, especially when it comes to leading and teaching people and having faith in my own knowledge. In terms of more tangible skills, I have a big interest in First Aid and the first course I attended with cadets was my Bronze First Aid. I have also done Bronze Leadership and JNCO – which develops the skills you need to be a good JNCO, such as presentation and team/leadership skills, how to ‘take Drill’ and solidifies your knowledge of key subjects such as uniform prep and expectations which you are expected to teach new recruits. I would also say that I have learnt a lot about both self-discipline and respect for myself and others .There are many different courses and camps that you can do with Cadets depending on what interests you have, and as personally I prefer things that are ‘hands on’ to classroom learning these are the sorts of courses I have done. I also have netball training and road marching which I attend while others may be away on camps.
What do you enjoy most about being a cadet?
I would say what I enjoy the most is the knowledge that I am part of a huge family of like-minded individuals. You make incredible friendships with people who you may only see every few months! The Cadet community is really special and really helps to foster the talents of each and every one of their members. Within the overall community smaller groups also form among those who have an interest in the same activities – I have a strong group of friends that I’ve made from attending Wing Sports events, and another from Road Marching. There are so many opportunities in Cadets that it would be impossible to do them all! The attitude is ‘the more you do at Cadets, the more you will get from Cadets’ and I can certainly vouch for that. I have hopes of making it to the Regional netball team, and I am also hoping that perhaps next year I will have proved myself enough that I will be allowed to take part in the Nijmegen marches in the Netherlands. Things like these strengthen friendships even more, it doesn’t matter if someone can barely remember your name from last time you met – they will still be delighted to see you!
As a corporal, what additional responsibilities do you have?
As a Corporal I am expected to teach and lead other members of my Squadron, I am someone you go to when you are in need of any form of help and I also have to learn how to discipline others if necessary! I am responsible for taking information up the chain of command when needed, and I work with the rest of the NCO team to keep things orderly within the squadron. We have a lot of responsibility as a group within the squadron to do certain tasks – for instance, the first Corporal to arrive on an evening must collect the keys and open things up, turn on lights and organise the other cadets once they arrive and get the squad on parade. At the end of the night, we are responsible for making sure everywhere is tidy and locked up. We also run ‘canteen’ halfway through the evening – essentially a tuck shop. They are not the most exciting jobs but someone must do them! We also run one night a month – we come up with an idea and clearly plan timings, risk assessment etc and take it up to Ma’am who will then approve it and give us a date. We also are responsible for helping with the instruction of ‘First Class’ – the most basic level of training. It involves things like map reading, basic radio understanding/use and general knowledge of Cadets.
What is the age range of the cadets and how long have you been a cadet?
You can join between the ages of 13 and 17 , and there isn’t an age where you must ‘leave’ as such – when you’re 18 you are classed as a ‘Staff Cadet’ but can still join in all the activities , and once you’re 20 you can choose to become a member of staff
Which cadet netball team do you play for and what do you particularly enjoy about playing in the team?
I play on the netball team for our Wing – Central and East Yorkshire. All cadets interested in being on the team must attend training once a month at the gym of a local RAF base. Typically, you arrive around 8:30 and leave at 3:30. At each training session we would be assessed by our instructors. In the final session, our instructors announce who has made it onto the team. This ensures that you bring your all kit to every session to prove that you deserve to make it onto the team as often there may be double the amount of people needed. I’ve made it on the team both years I’ve trained. We then compete against the other wings, such as Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and Durham. During this time we are also being watched by the head of the Regional team, who will choose who she wants to attend training and potentially make it onto the team for the next level up. Unfortunately, I am yet to make it onto the team, but I am determined to achieve. Last year we won every match we played and got first place! I love playing on the team as I have formed a really special group of friends and also met my best friend through it! I am pushed to be the very best I possibly can and have been taught how important it is to believe in yourself.
What A-levels are you studying?
I am studying Computer Science, Philosophy and Physics (I’ve been told this is an unusual combination!) When choosing my A-Levels I focused on what I enjoy. Physics and Computing were my favourite subjects and also my highest-achieving at GCSE, and I have always loved philosophical debates and writing. I have stuck with what I knew would give me both the greatest happiness and achievement.
How are your plans coming along to apply to be an RAF fighter pilot?
I will be applying to the RAF and to university at the same time. The application process has many elements, including medical and fitness tests, interviews and aptitude tests. If I am unable to be a pilot or an officer, for whatever reason, I will apply instead to be a Medic. As pilot is a very popular role it is difficult to get in straight from College, largely because you will be competing with people who have the additional knowledge and maturity that you gain from attending university. Ideally, I would like to get in straight away but I know the importance of having all options open. If I attend university, I want to study Outdoor Education/Leadership and I would hope to be close to a University Air Squadron. The total process to become a fully trained pilot can take up to seven years. Firstly, you must complete Officer training at RAF Cranwell before you move on to elementary pilot training. From there you are streamed off for more training in either Fast jet, Helicopter or Muli-Engine craft at a specialist training school. My personal preference is to be a fighter pilot, however you do not entirely influence which aircraft you will be flying – it may be that you are more suited to a different role or there may be a shortage of spaces. Once you have completed this training you will be sent to an RAF station where you will continue to train with a specific aircraft and become a qualified operational front line pilot.
What has inspired your desire to be a fighter pilot? Do you have any family with a military background?
I have wanted to be in the military since Year 8. I have family members who have been in the Navy, RAF and Army/TA, so it was something we talked about. I’ve always known that I wasn’t going to have a desk job, I simply couldn’t stand it! I have always needed diversity and challenge to my days and really hate being inside. A day of work experience with my sister, an architect, showed me that I’m really not suited to office environments! Prior to joining the Cadets, I had a few different ideas for what I wanted to do and, for a while, felt I had settled on being an aerospace engineer. However, all thoughts of that left my mind the first time I went flying – an opportunity we have as a member of Air Cadets is ‘air experience flights’, where you spend a day at a local AEF (such as No.11 AEF at RAF Leeming) and have the opportunity to fly a Grob Tutor plane with the accompaniment of one of the pilots. It is almost impossible to describe how I felt – an overwhelming sense of joy and an absolute certainty that this is where I belonged. When I came home, my parents said they had never seen my smile so wide! I’ve been flying three times since then (each flight around 30 min) and each time you are taught more and given more freedom. I especially love learning how to do aerobatics, it’s like being on a rollercoaster where you’re in control and the opportunity to ask the pilots whatever you want has meant I’ve been given tons of really helpful advice.
Any other information that may be of interest?
If anyone is struggling to think about their future/ isn’t sure what they wanted to do and wanted some inspiration I’d say you really need to listen to yourself. What causes a spark in your soul? Find it and pursue it. Don’t think about what you ‘should’ want to do or what others are encouraging you to do, but instead of what you truly desire. For a few years, I ignored the fact that I wanted to be in the military and, instead, tried to convince myself I would be happy sitting at a desk doing engineering or computer work – because that was what others had convinced me was ‘right for me’. I am nothing special for wanting to be a pilot and being in Cadets, it doesn’t make me any better than someone who has no idea what they enjoy or what they want to do with their future! I have merely discovered what I love and chosen to pursue it no matter what challenges I’ve faced.