The Pilot Base

An Interview with a Red Arrow

February 08, 2021 Pilotbase.com feat. Ben Hall & Dave Rogers Season 1 Episode 4
The Pilot Base
An Interview with a Red Arrow
Chapters
The Pilot Base
An Interview with a Red Arrow
Feb 08, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
Pilotbase.com feat. Ben Hall & Dave Rogers

James "JT" Turner is a current member of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows. We talk about his journey through life to end up flying for the Red Arrows and what the future has to hold, along with some amazing insights inside one of the world's greatest aerobatic teams.

Show Notes Transcript

James "JT" Turner is a current member of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows. We talk about his journey through life to end up flying for the Red Arrows and what the future has to hold, along with some amazing insights inside one of the world's greatest aerobatic teams.

Ben Hall:

Hello, and welcome to the pilot based podcast. I'm Ben and I've been a pilot for over a decade,

Dave Rogers:

and I'm categorically not a pilot.

Ben Hall:

Every Monday we'll be chatting to both pilots and non pilots with amazing aviation stories from all around the world. You can find all episodes of the pilot based podcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you're hearing, subscribe to our channel and leave us a review.

Dave Rogers:

In Episode Four. We flight left Tennant James Turner, aka j t. a bonafide e red arrow currently flying as red for in the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. Now as you'd expect from someone who plays such an integral part in something so brilliantly British, he's very modest about his achievements. Thankfully for him, myself and Ben, were a lot less modest on his behalf. Even more the famous red flights, it's perfect. And here he is. Right, we're doing this by the way, it's a video and an audio podcast. So those of you who aren't watching on video, JT has come fully stashed up for the occasion, and I've never seen anybody looks so radiant in red, and bearing in mind, I'm a Wales rugby fan. That is more praise than you'd expect it.

James Turner:

I wouldn't normally wear the red for Wales. Yeah.

Dave Rogers:

So we're in the middle right now.

James Turner:

I'm in Lincolnshire, so I live just south of Lincoln. And the we fly from just north Lincoln. So basically Scampton Okay.

Dave Rogers:

Do you ever spend any time in Wittering? That's the one with the Harrier outside, isn't it?

James Turner:

I've driven past it many times. I think I've probably been in there about once, but I've never had any time there. But yeah, I've driven past it many, many times. I've done the a one.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, that's the one that catches my eye. And Anyway, I digress. We've got so much so much to talk about today. Thanks for jumping on board. Ben. I want to start with how you and JT met because when we had a bit of a chat before welcoming James into the room, you said that it was at a wedding and you were attaching evaluated, you just want to get that out of the way out in the open or?

Ben Hall:

Yeah, we've met a couple of times. So this is through a mutual friend of ours. I've known him since school when he's in the Air Force now flying f 35. And JT was on the same course as he wasn't he going through

James Turner:

courses, but we worked together for three years, he was just a little bit ahead of me. And then we ended up working together in a structure together on the on the same aircraft on fly now.

Ben Hall:

Okay, so yeah, the probably the first meeting is an RF Valley then in North Wales, for some kind of graduation, I want to say lots of booze. Very, very messy night. And then my friend's wedding A few years later, was a slightly more sophisticated affair.

James Turner:

We started off that.

Ben Hall:

Well, yeah, of course, it died pretty quickly.

Dave Rogers:

So you were all dressed? Well, to begin with? Is that what we're getting? Well,

Ben Hall:

some more than others, they were all in their RF garb, like a proper dress. outfit, and I was just in a scary suit. So

Dave Rogers:

Oh, you're telling me you don't wear your commercial pilot's uniform. So weddings? Maybe you should start something. Anyway, I digress. Let's talk about becoming a pilot, then. Was it a childhood dream? Are you from an aviation family of forces family? How did that? How did it manifest itself to begin with?

James Turner:

So I'm not really from a forces family. So I think my great grandfather, my great, great grandfather, fought in the Second World War, but I never met it. And then since then, we've not got any military history at all in the Air Force in my family. So it was pretty much out of the blue. I joined it, but actually, I think I was I was sitting in, I was in somewhere in Italy, and I saw two jets flying. And when I was about 12, I think that'd be cool. So that's pretty much the first time I actually thought that is quite interesting thing to do. And then on and off throughout University in sixth form, I sort of applied, didn't prepare very well failed, think form and then applied later on. I had my ego bruised, and then starts again, and then actually after universities, but I got a bit carried on from there.

Ben Hall:

So you failed to get into the Air Force first time.

James Turner:

So there was a sick form scholarship where they would teach you to fly an aircraft. I had no preparation for the interview. I think I was a good life lesson to actually put some effort into it rather than just turn up and hopefully I can get it. I got the second time.

Dave Rogers:

What I love about that story is you were in Italy and you saw jets. And you'd actually I'm assuming you had flown to Italy in the first place. Yes. I just thought now, these these big things with lots of people are no interest to me whatsoever

James Turner:

I want to be, I want to be in the sports cars. So I wouldn't want to insult anybody flies them, but it's not it's not my interest at the moment. Maybe in a few years time I'll be changing my mind to bring it up better and say,

Ben Hall:

Can I get a job you don't want to implicate yourself a future career options do this I'll come

Dave Rogers:

specially with the millions of listeners that this podcast currently appeals to. Okay, so when you when you didn't get into the RAF the first time, was there any part of you that thought maybe this isn't for me, or did that sort of galvanise your determination to go in that direction?

James Turner:

I think so. But so little effort into initially, you didn't really, it was just going to be quite interesting to go and do and it wasn't join the airforce, it's just to go and do a sixth form scholarship. Okay, about about 30 hours of flying out of got. So I tried that and get in, took a step back and then finished a levels went to university and then at university during the the freshers fair I saw some people are flying suits so much go check them, they found out they were the university Air Squadron. And I pretty much do the same thing. But slightly more official, you're still not joining the Air Force, then you're still interested in like, you don't have to want to join the Air Force tall, it can just be a good way to go and see different parts of the world go around Europe and be skiing in the winter. And also fly as well. So as a sort of a stepping stone in. That's still a an in Yes, you still need to. Yeah, give the application afterwards.

Dave Rogers:

A telephone

James Turner:

that does sound like fun, though, doesn't it? I would recommend that even if you're not interested in the military at all. I think the university Air Squadron isn't absolutely probably one of the best clubs University

Dave Rogers:

While they were there many people involved with the Air Squadron that weren't interested in taking it further

James Turner:

though. I think in the interview to get in because this like a semi, unfortunately to get in. Everyone says they are interested. But the people doing the interviews and know that most of the people who are on the US it's called University Air Squadron are really interested or will never get in. So it's just a good way of showing future business leaders and future counsellors what the Air Force is like, and it's a good way of having people on your side. So when the Air Force is going to a local council to try and sort something out. They had I remember my time on the university Air Squadron, hopefully positively.

Dave Rogers:

So took me through your first flight then or the first flight that you ever took responsibility for I always refer to it as responsibility because I think it is I full disclosure, I am not a pilot, as I constantly remind everybody on this podcast, Ben is the expert. I asked the questions, I think experts a bit of a push. I asked the questions that he'd probably sound very silly if he asked. So I do think every time that you that you do fly a plane, it is his huge responsibility. So do you remember the very first time that you went up?

James Turner:

I think most pilots remember the first time they were solo in an aircraft. Yeah. And he was always in a side by side, little propeller aircraft and look across, there's no one next to you. That's that's quite a, an interesting view. There's normally just about a five minute flight, I think my mind definitely was a five minute flight. First time when you're in the aircraft on your own. I look across the seats empty. It's just the same feeling, I suppose is the first time you fly a traffic car. But I think that it's exciting to know that it's now you has to land it, there's no one else to help you.

Dave Rogers:

And was that the moment that that sort of nailed it for you where you really thought that that was just the love that you wanted to pursue?

James Turner:

I think so, I mean, I've never been one of these people who are sort of from five years old, who really want to join the Air Force and be a foster pilot and everything else. So I didn't have that drive all the way through. But I think as I've done more and more into I've realised I enjoy it more and more. So I think my drive has actually increased so I've got on and it's great to be sitting around now doing pretty much what i love

Ben Hall:

it i think that's the same as me, actually, James. So I'm not from an aviation background or military or anything like that. So I had no knowledge of aviation at all. So when I was growing up, I had very little interest in it, to be honest, I mean, I quite like planes and stuff. They're nice, but I didn't have this dream of becoming a pilot, which lots of people do. But I'm the same that the more time spent in the cockpit The more I fall in love with the profession.

James Turner:

I agree. Yeah, that's great.

Dave Rogers:

So then you are successful in an application for the RAF was that was that first time the charm this time

James Turner:

it was so only applied officially for the Air Force properly at the end of university. So it got to the end of our my three years he applied and then joined the next summer of actually So as of a year of waiting around and getting it so and it was 2006 when I joined. So I've been in since then

Dave Rogers:

and prepared better this time, a little bit more. So so you applied and your application was as a pilot or to learn to become a pilot in the Air Force is you There are lots of different piloting jobs aren't there? There are lots of things that you can fly. does everyone want to be a fast jet pilot? And how do they kind of sort? I nearly said the wheat from the chaff there, but that's not very fair. But But you know, you know, the points are making.

James Turner:

I suppose it'd be quite PC here, but I think you go through your, you do a first training, which was 60 hours flying in a twin seater propeller aircraft knee joint. And then at the end of that, they stream you it's called, and it is the the fast jet, and then the rotor is cool. So helicopters, and it's the multi engine aircraft. So the the big Hercules or the seven for seven styles at 30. So it is actually in those orders. Now, I think most people join to try and go fast jet. But I think you find out how you are doing the first training. change what you either aim for or what you say you aim for. I don't know which one? I've always been lucky enough that I've managed to still move forward.

Ben Hall:

Very diplomatic answer there.

Dave Rogers:

Be the one that we clip up for social media. Although I I mean, I'm from I'm from a military town and there are always Hercules trundling over the top and the pilots are so low, you can practically give them a wave. Make no mistake, they are pretty amazing aircraft out there.

James Turner:

Oh, a massively, I think I think all of the flying in the military is you flying, you can get can't do elsewhere pretty much the whole time. So helicopters the rotary fly is different. I think even the multi engine stuff is very different. So you can do a more tactical stage. But you can also end up doing just routes from one place to another delivering people on cargo. I think it's a varied lifestyle.

Ben Hall:

I think there's actually a similar sort of comparison to the civilian world that when you first start flying as a pilot, I think the dream is sort of, you know, long haul wide body aircraft. But actually very quickly, some people much prefer short haul or private jet or turboprop so that that dream, I think can can change over time, depending on your personal situation.

Dave Rogers:

Okay, from fastjet, then, is the red arrows. Is that a kind of carrot that's always dangling there? Is that something that you that you think at the very beginning? I'd really like to do that? And what is the likelihood of you having the opportunity to do

James Turner:

and I think for some people, I think, again, some people have maybe five, six year old goes to an airshow and sees the red arrows flying and go, that's what I want to do and always strive towards it. Again, I didn't do that. It wasn't something that was even really on my radar. It was fact that I would just, it was great, something to look forward to or something to see an air show, but I didn't even know it was possible to to be chosen to do it. So I personally just moving forward has tried to do as best as I can. But you end up in two kind of roots of the fast jet pilots go down and it's a weapons instructor or a flying instructor is kind of where people go. So it does kind of split, but you can still swap across the two. Really, you're working for it. So long story short, I wasn't aiming for it when I joined. But it's been great in the last 510 years to think about maybe I could start joining that. And then here I am now.

Dave Rogers:

Is that your actual flight suit that you've got on now.

James Turner:

So yes, we get a number each year. Okay, this is the red arrows flying suit. So it's pretty much the same as the green ones that people normally wear and we're flying. But during the summer months when in the red, so I'm not sure when people actually view this video, there's a chance I wouldn't normally be wearing the green one at this time of year. Actually, day to day I'm going into work and flying in a green flag seat. And it's only when we get the PDA which is the public display authority that is when we're allowed to call ourselves red arrows and actually display from the public. And that's when we swap over to this but I thought as I had been told when I first got into the team to bring me down a level it's the red fly see this famous it's not you which actually everyone recognised the red flag said which is the best way of doing this on your summary and then you take it off and you're back to being

Dave Rogers:

just James What does it say? What does it say on the on the chest?

James Turner:

So is my name eventually be the the actual term for the red arrows or the Royal Air Force? Aerobatic Team Rafat is what we call it. Everyone knows is the red arrows. It's actually technically the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team.

Dave Rogers:

And you are red for?

James Turner:

That's correct. Yes. So I'm in my second year, but it's because last year so the display season 2020 was so strange, obviously with what's going on around the world. We pause the team so normally every year, we change positions, but the last year into this year we paused it so it was in the same position. is a bit of a strange situation

Ben Hall:

Oh, you change every year do?

James Turner:

Yes. So as a rough big picture in, you guys start near the boss to start near the front of the formation. And as you get better you move further away is kind of how it works. So I'm running my first year and the there's three new people started. And it's two, three and four. So before we started, but then because the last year was a weird we only did three displays actually probably displays rather than sort of 40 or 50, you'd normally expect we've stayed the same positions to keep the continuity.

Dave Rogers:

So if you're four, are you on the are you on the right or the left? How do the numbers work from water,

James Turner:

I'm gonna get a decent visual, I have a symbol on my front of X ray, I can see your I don't know if I am still on your sternum. Yeah, mirrored in this picture. But I am on the right hand side. So if you're looking down on the formation on the right hand side,

Dave Rogers:

so where are you the first one are you the first blue?

James Turner:

It depends. So we have seven minutes of smoke light one minute of red one is blue. So we change around which colours we're using to try and use all of the smoke in a display right now. Last year I blue was my rival colour, but this year might be different it is depends how much smoke and where we wanted the colours. Definitely. So my rival colour in the display last year was blue. But for some flypast I might be red just to sort the colours red.

Dave Rogers:

Okay, and just that obviously that's that's planned out a long time in advance, you don't just get somebody on the radio like bright by the way reds on

James Turner:

for display is planned out quite a long way in advance. But sometimes if we're flying around the country, and doing many different flypasts over the queen and then over Cardiff and then some other places around the country as well. We might stop round in that sorting, so we fly for about an hour, but we'll be putting out different colours depending on to try and keep a good spectacle as we fly over but not running out of colour over London, which is quite embarrassing. Oh, that

Dave Rogers:

would be an absolute disaster. Yeah. I saw

Ben Hall:

I saw was it last year or the year before there was the French Aerobatic Team, one of them put the wrong colour on Donald Trump.

James Turner:

That's happened and it happened in the Reds about four or five years ago. The I'm sure it's very easy to do, though.

Ben Hall:

I mean, is it just three separate buttons?

James Turner:

That's exactly it. So the stick we fly with, and there's three buttons on it. And it's red on red off white on white off and blue on blue off. So we swap around obviously throughout the show to us all. So it is quite easy to get the wrong colour out.

Dave Rogers:

It'd be a great practical joke to put the wrong colour in someone's tank,

James Turner:

but it'd be pretty embarrassing. Like a brown colour Robin.

Dave Rogers:

Right I've we've got ahead of ourselves here. And we were talking about smoke already. What does a regular day look like for you? Firstly, a sort of regular day at work. And then I'd like to talk about a regular show day as well.

James Turner:

So during the winter months, and from around about November to about May, within the winter training, as we go back to green flying seats, and we're flying three times a day. So the day would start to round about eight o'clock in the morning. So of course it's way eight o'clock in the morning. And then we do a map briefs, we talked about the weather, and what we're going to be aiming to do for that day. And then we go pretty much straight into a sortie brief. And so we brief about what we can do in the flight, we don't go and do the flight and then we come and do a debrief. I think this is something from what I'm aware, it's quite different to lots of civilian flying the staff that the debrief is probably the most important part of military flight. So at the end of what we're doing here after each practice, which is about 30 minutes, airborne, will then pretty much watch that in real time with a video and then pause and stop to see how we are doing and whether we are in the wrong position and the Smokeout split second too early and all that sort of stuff. So the debrief is actually probably more important than natural flying, so we can pick up differences in how to improve next time,

Ben Hall:

and whose video and all of these sorties. Is

James Turner:

it from the ground? Someone on the ground? Yes. So we've always got we call it the the display centre, essentially. So as though there's one person still standing on the display line, where we're displaying to that's what all air shows all displays are aimed at. Obviously, it looks good from everywhere, whatever where you are, but it's actually all of the crossing points and everything is actually a me at one point. So the camera ban there will come out obviously. And then it's a we use that for two reasons, one for debriefing. But also for if anything goes wrong, we've got a video evidence to see why there was an accident or why something went wrong. So it's good way to learn from that as well. And then so the brief flight debrief cycle lasts about an hour hour and a half to two hours probably. And that we do that three times a day,

Dave Rogers:

five days a week. And Goodness me. That's, that's amazing. So, so 1515 flights a week, no questions asked.

James Turner:

It's quite tiring, it definitely gets a walk into it. But the flights are quite short. So the aircraft I flown beforehand, you could normally do about an hour and a half sortie. But with air to air refuelling, you can easily go up to 468 hours of flying as well. Or we're only way we're using it at the moment, we only do about 30 to 40 minutes of practising.

Dave Rogers:

But let's talk about those aircraft, then. Because it would be easy to think that as as the red arrows, the world famous red arrows, that just just looks so spectacular in the sky, that you'd be using brand new jets every year. And you know that the height of technology, but that's not necessarily the case.

James Turner:

That's not the case in the slightest. The aircraft was designed in the 70s. And we first flew it in the United ladies. So we are flying the same aircraft. Now that we flew in the red arrows, the 1980s. So they are quite old. However, they are the absolute perfect aircraft for us. So it's a it's often described as a small sports car. So it's got none of the electronic kit that a Ferrari would have or anything else. But it's a small Lotus Elise style thing with no abs, no traction control is just you fly the aircraft, which is actually perfect. So it is old, but is the absolute ideal aircraft.

Ben Hall:

I imagine it's an absolute nightmare for things like North Atlantic transits though.

James Turner:

That is true. Yes. So we, depending on how we fly us obviously fly higher, we use less fuel. But we fly around in a big formations, it's harder to get a big formation about highs and lows, very rules, but rvsm and restrictions and stuff, which I'll show you where we aren't obvious and compliance. We can't fly in controlled airspace and of that 27,000 feet around the world. So we try to fly low. So long story short, we do around about 600 mile hops is what we aim for we're travelling around the world, which means trying to get across to North America, we have to try and find little bits of land with a runway on within 600 miles. And that involves going around Scotland and then Greenland, Iceland, Canada, and then come back around. So two years ago, the team were in America, and actually getting across there was one of the hardest bits, because you're looking at landing in airfields with no instrument recovery procedures, and no diversion airfields as well. So you've got one go. So you have to make a decision. If you draw a line on the map halfway through that line, you find out the weather's good enough where you're trying to land and you make a decision where they are going to go for a turn around. And I think it's it's a little bit more exciting and quite an old aircraft. Strike. Yeah, cuz

Ben Hall:

I mean, in in civilian airliners, we've got the luxury of, you know, all sorts of wizzy gadgets, where you can get live weather updates and no tabs for all the fields. And you know, we've got everything on little iPads and computers, where if you guys it's paper on your knee, do you even have autopilot? No autopilot on this

James Turner:

aircraft, so we can trim it. And that's about it. We've got an old GPS that we can use. It's a black and green screens, it's black and white screen. And we've got some pretty much steam driven dials. But it's a it's a great aircraft to fly and it's a light manoeuvrable aircraft and it handles exactly as you'd want it to. So it's perfect when you get to the air shows. But trying to get to the air shows can be a bit more challenging. It's easy for me, I just wanted the person in front.

Dave Rogers:

So I think I already know the answer to this question then if they if they offered you a brand new plane now they were going to completely overhaul everything? Would the would you and the rest of the pilots the rest of the team sort of round against it and go No, this is what we've got. This is what we need. These are the red arrows.

James Turner:

Well as a difficult question, because the the BA haut we're flying the moment will run out of his life where that's going to be currently it's looking at 2030. So he's got another 10 years left of it. But at some stage, it will just be an economical to actually keep it going because it's running out of fatigue life running out of spares for it. So we will run out what we replace it with I don't know and no one seems to know yet. We're still having an IRA deciding I don't think the government will want to get rid of the team. We probably won't have any parts the military that actually brings more money into the country then it costs but it's a we will replace it as to what to replace it for. There'll be advantages and disadvantages going for new aircraft but I think what we've got at the moment is actually perfect for using it for

Dave Rogers:

let's talk show days then. The obviously the the training the rehearsals if you want to if you want to call on that, that sounds pretty intense. What is the show day look like?

James Turner:

So it's difficult. So I have been on the team for one year with one display season, we only did three shows. So I can talk about what it would be like, can't give you a fully honest answer. However, the reason why we do the three flights a day and we work quite hard to practice what it's like being tired, is because the show days can be even more tiring because you can do the same three displays at different places around the country, and then a fourth flight to transit to go somewhere else, you can do four flights a day. interspersed with that you can end up getting to meet the public, which is great to do is quite tiring. So you get to chat to people. And that's everything from the little four five year old boy and girl who's interested to the aviation enthusiasts. Asking difficult questions is quite a tiring summer season that can be

Dave Rogers:

I suppose that keeps you honest as well, isn't it? The aviation enthusiasts asking the question? Is there an emotional attachment with the red arrows because it is such an iconic thing and such an honour certainly, from my perspective, as a civilian to to look upon you as a red arrows pilot, it seems like an incredible achievement and a real honour. So is that the case?

James Turner:

I thought I feel a massive honour to be asked to join the team to be figurehead of the RF UK military and the UK as a whole around the world. So I think it's a it's an amazing experience and amazing honour to do this job. And I'm massively lucky to be here. And I think as you're saying, I think lots of people in the UK have the same feeling of sort of a feeling in their throat as we fly over but the colours out and it's amazing to fly over the Queen for her birthday and to open things like Silverstone and, and other big events around the country. I think it's a really nice birthday. And it's also good to go around the world as well. So last year, we did manage to go to to France and to Finland, the displays, we flew with the French equivalent of the red arrows down the shores of these a and past the Eiffel Tower. And then we flew over Boris Johnson in London the same day. I think it's amazing opportunities and experiences. But I think it's also great to know that people on the ground looking up and having a smile we fly over

Dave Rogers:

Is there anywhere in the world you'd love to fly, we've not had the opportunity to yet.

James Turner:

So my previous aircraft type, which was the Eurofighter Typhoon, so it's a more of a operational aircraft, I was lucky enough that I've taken over to the west coast of America. And I've also been out to the east coast of Japan eventually with it. So I've been quite a long way around the world with it. So I think it's great. It's amazing to go and see people and work with people from nationalities, different nationalities and different cultures who do exactly the same sort of job as me. We work with them and see different places. So again, it's an amazing experience.

Ben Hall:

What does the programme look like for next week?

James Turner:

We are aiming for a big tour. I don't know if it's on the cards we are going for. But it's going to be a very large tour today for the same sort of thing. So two years ago went to America. We're looking at going the other way around the world this time, but I'm really

Dave Rogers:

super cool. Just just rock and roll pilots in really, isn't it?

Unknown:

Exactly. That's.

Dave Rogers:

But you mentioned America a couple of times now, have you come across any Blue Angels.

James Turner:

So I haven't not worked with them. But at the end of the American tour was when I was joining the team. So the new pilots, which I was just over a year ago, you go and fly with the current pilots in your new position. So you find out where you're gonna be so I find out as we read for so at the end of that season, I flew in the back of red force aircraft just to see what it was like and see the whole experience of all the meeting the public and all the PR work have to do with it. While we were out there we were at the same airshow as the Thunderbirds, which is the United States Air Force equivalent of the Blue Angels which are the Navy so working with them and I think it's all we all have the same drive the same same idea the same lifestyle, although their flying suits are a lot tighter than ours so

Dave Rogers:

amazing. That's really tickles me. Both is that handover like then between you and your predecessor?

James Turner:

I think it's it's the the fact that you're now starting with the red arrow so you you can almost call yourself part of the team But obviously you're not because you're just sitting in the backseat. So I think it's a mixture of all of how, how am I going to get to the stage that he is now I've been following this. And he's at the end of his first season. So he is doing really well. And I'm just starting. But I think it's also a pride and excitement of that what's coming up. So I flew in the backseat for three displays over Huntington Beach, which was about a million people watching. There's an amazing experience and look out and seeing all of the people down the beach, in their shorts and T shirt watching us live. And it was an awesome experience.

Dave Rogers:

Do you? Do you have any idea what what the atmosphere is like down there? I mean, I'm sure you've been on the ground when there's been a when there's been a display. So you've you've kind of felt it yourself. But do you get a feeling of, of what's going on below you?

James Turner:

I think if you say we can either take off from a an airfield and display with the same airfield, or we can take off somewhere and then fly somewhere to displays. It depends on how the where the air show is and what we're doing. I think obviously, if you walk to the aircraft in front of all the crowds, and you get to crew into the aircraft, whatever was watching, which was we had in Finland. So my first actual public display lesson we did this year. That was quite exciting that the network was watching it. As I'm getting in, all the crowds are watching us start the aircraft up and taxiing out. I think if you are the Huntington Beach, we are flying out of an airfield that was 50 miles away 4050 miles away, you don't get the same sort of experience. So I think actually, you just arrived over an air show, you're concentrating on red one, which is the red aircraft in front, which is what I'm looking at, and it was the whole time, you didn't get much chance to look down to see in the crowd. So it's a bit of a mix, I think you can always get a quick glance to see there were 10 people out there where there's a million people out there

Dave Rogers:

a million people. What happens afterwards, when you finish what ambitions Do you have then as a pilot?

James Turner:

That's a very difficult question. So it would normally be we normally join the team for three years. At the end of the three years, you just go it's treated as a normal tour in the military. So flying tours about three years long. And then you move on to the next one. So I could go back to same aircraft I used to flip fly, or I could go do something different, right? go across the F 35. Or go to a training world or even go by a desk and do some more staff work rather than flying as to what I want to do. I don't know, I'm lucky in the fact that because last year was paused into this year, I've actually got a four year tour. So that I can delay that decision to later. But some people like they've now hit the pinnacle of lions, they stopped flying. Some people just enjoy it. Some people go and leave to go enjoy an airliner. So it's it's quite a wide ranging.

Dave Rogers:

You You can't stop flying. Surely

James Turner:

some people do. I don't know. I'm enjoying the flying. I think it's great. But I think some people think they've hit the the pinnacle. So they've done what they wanted to do. They display they're taking a an old aircraft around the world, they've done pretty much the best fly they think they can do unless they decide,

Ben Hall:

like it must take its toll as well flying in sort of that high stress and high precision environment, completely manual flying, you know, in front of the world doing that for four years now.

James Turner:

I think it does, I think I think so I think people get by the end of their time, they think that's actually now time to stop. So I think people say around about three years actually quite a nice length to do. I think it also takes a toll on your family life as well. During the summer months, I'll be away every sort of Thursday to Monday, pretty much. So I don't come home very often you just see your family, wife, kids, just in a sort of short period. It's I think that's where actually starts to take tell when people get to the end the game, amazing experience, a little bit selfish of being honest. So you get to do some great stuff. But now it's time to actually see the family and spend more time at home.

Dave Rogers:

It's interesting, you say the words the word selfish that i think i think that's incredibly self aware for you even to acknowledge it because you've already said that you're a representative, not just of the RAF, but of Great Britain as a country on the world stage, which many people would just look at and think well, it's almost your, your civic duty, if you're able to do it, then you have to do it. But to kind of have the self awareness to realise that that actions sort of have reactions and take their toll on people around you. Is that is that something that you do think about?

James Turner:

I think so i think so. My wife's in the military as well. She's okay. I like the military. So I'm lucky in that stage. The fact that we both understand that being a part of the military, you end up moving around quite a lot. That guy four week month, six months tours away from the family. But I think we both know that it's it's something I've always wanted to do. So she's really behind me, but at the end of the time It'll be a good way to actually step back a little bit and then see what we move on. As a family from there.

Dave Rogers:

I wonder what you'll do?

Ben Hall:

Check back in in three years time and see where you're heading.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, exactly. I'll

James Turner:

be even grayer and even bolder,

Ben Hall:

are telling me about it.

Dave Rogers:

I'm doing fantastically, it's still pretty ginger. I wonder I can see behind you there. You've got a ukulele and a guitar, I wonder if you will actually be a musical rock star as well as a as an aviation one.

James Turner:

I was just saying to my wife, it's always difficult to work out what stick behind here. I'm not very musical. I've tried to learn the guitar. I couldn't play that one. So I bought another one. Ah. And the ukulele was actually a present that got sent out to my wife which was away for a few months. She's she is the musical one of the families. So hopefully with musical This was around my kids will pick it up better than I am.

Dave Rogers:

I love that. So you've got an acoustic guitar is that I can't play that. So I get an electric one, because that's louder. And if I'm gonna play it badly, I may as well play it loud. And

James Turner:

that was exactly it. I can't play this one. I bought another one.

Dave Rogers:

With regards to the with regards to children, then, we've already mentioned about aviation families, and neither of you are from traditionally flying families, would you encourage your kids to either follow you into the RF or follow you into the air?

James Turner:

I think I would definitely say I've really enjoyed it, I would definitely not dissuade either of them for joining. So I'm not one of these people who are a doctor and then say I don't be a doctor, because I think I think there's great advantages for it. To be honest, I think in 20 years time, which is kind of where they're they will probably be joining this in a military world. I think the or the aviation world and the aviation will change quite a lot. We are already looking at going more down autonomous remotely piloted vehicles. I think they'll only go one way it does make sense. I think it'll go further and further away from the actual blind. So I would not say, don't do it. I've had a great time. But I could imagine the whole world would change in 20 years time where they'd be looking at 20.

Dave Rogers:

So do you consider yourself lucky to be in the position where you are now where you're still able to do something that you love something that may not exist in even a couple of generations? time?

James Turner:

Oh, massively, I think it's, I think it's an amazing position to be in and opportunity to have is absolutely great. Everyone always says it used to be better. And it It probably did in the aviation world, it probably did used to be even better 40 years ago, but then people died more often in life in my area of expertise. So at the moment, it's relatively safe. And it's exciting.

Dave Rogers:

How can it be? How can it have been better, you still find the same planes.

James Turner:

Fewer rules back then?

Dave Rogers:

Something I've not talked about yet, JT. But it turns up whenever somebody Well, let's, let's be honest, Google's your name, you're a creamy. Now, I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. So can you give us the rundown, please,

James Turner:

it's a bit of a mix thing at the time, you think it's a bad thing, in the long term is actually quite a good thing. So throughout Flying Training, you normally get to the end of your final test, flight training, and then you go on to the frontline. So you go into the Harrier, the tornado, the typhoon. But just before we get to that, so just at the end, they sometimes take some people to stay back to instruct. So it's kind of arrogantly thought of as the dream, essentially the top lot to get stuck behind. So I was going through Flying Training, I thought I was going to leave the training system and go on to the frontline. I was told at my last day of actually on the squadron, you're not going anywhere. You're staying here for three years. The term is painful, especially it's the cream across the top of a living brought back.

Dave Rogers:

But at the time, it's terrible. earmarked for greatness. So I'd imagine even though it is, as you say it's the cream, it's the best of the best. I'd imagine you've got a fair bit of stick about it.

James Turner:

Yes, pretty much. Yeah, definitely. So you're about to go and go onto a bigger, faster, more powerful aircraft and you get stuck sitting in the backseat teaching other people but it's actually an honour to be asked but or told rather than asked. But it's

Dave Rogers:

a shame at the time. But looking back, it was good fun. And because your your flight schedule is so intense now three flights a day, five days a week, and then the shows does that mean? You don't do any instruction at the moment does that take a break for your period with the team.

James Turner:

So at the moment, all I'm doing is being a rest pilot. So during the winter, I train to be as good as I can and then during the summer I am trying to be as good as I can. If I'm public. So you do other stuff. So we'll organise some other secondary duties we talk about pretty much why my, my role is just to be an hour's pilot, which is great. If I can just focus on me be the best pilot I can be.

Ben Hall:

I'd like to know if you've had any. Let's not call them near misses, but slightly sketchy experiences in the Air Force that felt made you feel a little bit uncomfortable with your flying.

James Turner:

I think as a whole, I've been relatively lucky. So I've not had any major issues with flying. I think you, we spent all of our time practising for emergencies. And we use the simulator quite a lot. As I said, as I assume you do as well. We do quite a lot of practising for emergencies. So when things go wrong, we we roughly know hopefully know how to, to sort them out. I suppose it wasn't actually a major issue, but I was at that probably 10 years ago. Now I was flying a hawk, which is the same aircraft I fly now but it was a black one. And it was what it used for the the training. And I had a student in the backseat and we're just flying through clouds. And there was a massive flash and a bang, I thought was a couple of weeks ahead of the aircraft. And I shouted out what was that with a few other words and the the student in the back because I think we should be struck by lightning like yeah, I probably should know that was pretty obvious actually. But we carried on flying is it's pretty old aircraft, I think really happened with it. We landed and realised that we'd had lightning and got in the Peto tubes, the bit of metal that sticks out the front of the aircraft, and had come out of the the tail plane, the back was there were holes in both of it. And we didn't realise that if the aircraft was fine didn't actually make any difference to it. Because we're in a Faraday cage. It was a bit more exciting to realise I had been struck by lightning without realised, so

Ben Hall:

that didn't mess up your instruments or anything. Your SP was still fine. And

James Turner:

it was absolutely fine. It was the the aircraft were jolted as it happened. I was we were in relatively thick cloud, but it wasn't very high cloud. So I didn't think it definitely wasn't a CV, so I didn't actually think we would have any issues with the lightning. But the aircraft did jump quite a lot. We flew out inside of the cloud, and we flew back to our F Valley, which is Northwest Wales, and then realised the lightning bolt had gone through the aircraft eventually. I was lucky.

Ben Hall:

Because I've been hit by lightning a few times an airliner but because we're so big, we barely realise it. You kind of have a little bit of a crack, but you don't see it at all. So you know, it's right in front of you.

Dave Rogers:

So did you. You mentioned a big bang, you actually heard it you you felt it essentially,

James Turner:

definitely heard it. And there's a big flash in front of me. I thought it was in front of me. It obviously was only about a metre in front of me as we sit quite close to the front of the aircraft. So it Yes, I thought it was just a lightning bolt going near me and realised actually gone through the aircraft.

Dave Rogers:

Well,

James Turner:

the Faraday cage worked and the electricity went around the outside. And yeah,

Dave Rogers:

we carried on flying. And now you're here telling a great story on a podcast? Is that is that not normal? is the wrong word. Do you know anybody else that's happened to

James Turner:

just say but it does happen more with the civilian airliners in the fact that they are probably more robust for that sort of thing. Because it can happen often. And you see photos lightning going through the airlines. It has happened a few times and Mercury it does happen. The if you expect if you know you've been hit by lightning, we will always try and divert to Atlanta to the nearest airfield because we're not sure what's going on with it. I actually think it causes that much of an issue to the aircraft. Because it is the big box around electricity just flies. But it goes round it but it can cause issue the instruments. But I'm in an old aircraft. So I've got very few instruments.

Dave Rogers:

When you're actually have gas gauges and jets. When you're actually in formation, how close are you wing to wing.

James Turner:

So we move around to different formations, we can do different shapes. So when we're flying all I'm actually looking at his red ones that I keep referring to him. He's a team leader. He's the one at the front at the top of the diamond. And we're all transmitted through so even if there's someone inside me so I've got me number two, and then what and if you can see that effectively, I'm looking at the canopy of the guy next to me at the boss's head so I'm trying to dispose off him. We're around about six foot to two metres away roughly. But the weird bit is that I'm not looking at the person who's two metres away from me. I'm looking at the person through that and hoping the person next to me doesn't wobble and hit. So it's quite Step change a different way of doing rather than looking at the person nearest you, you're actually looking through the person next to you and just trusting each other.

Dave Rogers:

So I'm just looking at my bedroom door, now you're around about the height of my bedroom door from the jet next year,

James Turner:

roughly, yeah, it's kind of what you're looking after the wingtips

Dave Rogers:

bed, in a commercial plane, what is considered a near miss?

Ben Hall:

Yeah, that'll be uncomfortable. Well, vertically, anything less than 1000 feet is not good. And horizontally, I mean, if you get within a few miles of somebody, you've done something a bit wrong. So 60 is

Dave Rogers:

quite tight. And that that six feet is that is that kind of calculated. So if you are all flying correctly, at the correct speed, the correct altitude, you can't feel the planes either side of us, you kind of get any any wobble to use a layman's term,

James Turner:

you can get the wobble, eventually, you're the airflow being disrupted. But actually, we always try and fly out of the the airflow. So if we are flying directly behind someone, we will always sit low, okay, know from the ground or look like we're all in line, but we're actually a little bit low, we pretty much put the tail plane, in the in the jetty flux, effectively, that's the sort of height we're looking at. So you can, if you clean it up a little bit, you can feel it vibrate, others say we're descending down a little bit,

Ben Hall:

how's it feel, I'm really sort of, you know, those really horrible, hot, humid, turbulent days, that must be a real struggle, sort of just doing your regular formations. And

James Turner:

so that's one of the things that the brilliant UK weather trains us for effectually. So the turbulent weather is the issue. So whether the, because we're down at 300 feet to the bottom of our loops, and things were quite close to the trees, so actually, trees and hills and hangars create a bit of turbulence. So wind off them crashing causes issues. And again, the hot days have actually really got the turbulent air rising, that makes everything quite bumpy. So that's harder when we are looking at an aircraft that's not next to us. But we're all bouncing around quite a lot. And that's one of the things I noticed the very first time I sat in the back of the team, you we bounced around more than you see from the ground, because we're the stalls are 30 foot wide aircraft moving up and down by a metre fit in the aircraft feels quite a lot from the ground, you don't actually see it. So we do bounce around quite a lot. It's a lot easier. It's nice and smooth. But we have to just get used to that because he can't choose what the issues are.

Dave Rogers:

So part of your sort of being in the backseat with that training, then is that to get used to flying in such close proximity just to the feel of it, or is that something that you'd already done.

James Turner:

So the whole code flight, the moments, the red arrows is a 20 day class, it's got two seats, one at the front, then 130 behind it. And the depending on the rules are getting more strict for various reasons. But when I first joined the Air Force, it's actually relatively easy to sit in the backseat. And you could do that if you are a fast jet pilot, but we're not joining the team at all. So you can have it be phoned up and come and sit in the backseat. So it's a great way of actually just seeing what the red arrows do. And that's what I did when I first became a fast jet pilot. Admittedly, it's harder now because of rules and various reasons. But we can still take people in the backseat, mostly though, if they are trying to join the team. So now we use it more of a, you're interested join the team, Come fly with us for three times a day, or for the selection process, which is about a week long interview. If you're in the backseat every day about three times a day, and just to see what the tempo is like and actually enjoy it.

Dave Rogers:

Is there anyone that doesn't?

James Turner:

I think by the time they get to go away the the interview, so every year we were looking at bringing in three new pilots, and it's a about 30 to 50 people apply each year, we whittle it down to about eight or nine, and then we take them away. Sounds amazing. We nearly always go to Greece or to Cyprus. We do it because we need the weather. So you can guarantee flying three times a day, five days a week. But we also take them out so we can live with them for a week and actually see whether they like it and be with it. Whether we like them eventually. People do get to the end of it and go You know what, this is not. This isn't for me. I think Molly by the time people get to that stage they've already blown with the back seat of Australia. Want to join?

Dave Rogers:

Of course they do. Of course how to. Have you ever been up in anything like that bad?

Ben Hall:

I'm too tall. I'm six foot five. I can't show it in anything remotely. I applied for the Air Force when I was when I was 1617. And I failed my medical because my femur was too long.

Dave Rogers:

Really?

Ben Hall:

Yeah. But I think it's just for the ejection seat. So they stream everybody. But the medical is done for the fast chair. Is that correct?

James Turner:

JT. As far as I'm aware, I think yes.

Ben Hall:

Yeah. So they hold everyone to the kind of the highest standards from the beginning. And yeah, I think I'd lose my kneecaps if I objected. So they just said, forgot.

James Turner:

Well, I hope I'm short.

Dave Rogers:

You are the perfect size for red arrow, which I'm pretty sure most people would take. Well, I hope that you are nobody you ever knows has to reject ever. So we will just, we will just leave that one where it is? JT. Is there anything else you would like to to add to this? This has been such a brilliant conversation. Thank you.

James Turner:

I know from I've really enjoyed it. I, I've really enjoyed my career in the aviation world, I think, in the military is what has been brilliant. I think I've I personally, would say the best bit about being in the team. And the Air Force, the whole is the camaraderie, the fact that you get to go away with like minded people. Pretty much all my best friends are the people I work with, which is great. It's a great way to live with with great friends and meet different people and also do things around the world. So I think it's brilliant. I know it's not for everyone, but I definitely recommend you go for aviation, if it was interested.

Dave Rogers:

I'm so pleased that due to everything that's that's gone on, you've got the opportunity to extend as well. So you can do all of the things that you really look forward to when you when you kind of first got accepted. And I'll certainly be keeping an eye out to see where you to end up because I think you're gonna have some incredible adventures. And hopefully, this, this podcast will still be running in a couple years time. Will you come back on once you've had a few more adventures and talk us through them?

James Turner:

I'd be delighted. Yeah. be honoured to come back up again. As long as you don't show like a difference. This is what I looked like three years ago. This is what I look like now with bags under the eyes and less hair.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, sure. You've just got to make sure that you still fit in the same flying suit. Good man. Thanks, JT. Cheers.

Ben Hall:

Thanks for listening to the pilot based podcast. We'll be back next week with another great guest from the aviation industry. Don't forget to check out our new career platform at pilot base COMM And all the socials at pilot base HQ. If you enjoyed this podcast Don't forget to subscribe and rice review