Air Engineers Course Blog 7

So, assessment season crept up quickly and after nearly a full academic year at HMS Sultan there were just two more hurdles to jump to complete this stage of our training.

The first of these was Chaos week, putting to the test all of the skills we had learnt at 760 Squadron. The day starts with a ‘handover’ from the previous day’s duty engineer, covering details of the current day’s flying and the serviceability state of all the Squadron’s aircraft.  

Within half an hour of this, you are expected to give a comprehensive brief to the Command of your intentions for the day; this can be extremely challenging as the staff will question the decisions that you have made to confirm that you are applying your knowledge correctly.  

After the morning briefing, you go through the daily routine of a squadron. Firstly conducting rounds of the hangar, followed by dealing with the many difficult situations that the staff throw at you, which range from personal matters with members of your Division to technical problems with aircraft throughout the day.  

The whole day is assessed by the AEO of 760 Squadron with the (hopefully) good news of a pass coming at the end of the day. 

Chaos, AEQB and What's Next?

Now onto the big one, the Air Engineering Qualifying Board (AEQB)! This is the final assessment by the Air School to assure themselves that we are ready to move on to work on a Naval Air Squadron and attempt our Certificate of Competency (CofC); it encapsulates everything we have covered on the course so far and is in the form of a 6 to 8 hour oral board in front of 4 members of the school staff and presided over by either the School XO or Commander.  

The board starts with subjects such as the family tree of an air station but quickly moves on to a broad range of areas covering all aspects of the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy and Military aviation as a whole. This continues for most of the morning until all of the areas needed are covered by the board, we then move on to the next phase, a detachment planning scenario.  

We were given a brief by the board about a number of aircraft we have to take away; my scenario was to detach 4 Merlin Mk2 helicopters to two separate locations concurrently. After asking questions about our given scenarios, the board leave the room for 45 minutes while we formulate our plan of how we will achieve the detachment.  

When this time is up, the board come back in the room and continue the questioning, this time about our plan, asking us to justify our decisions. The final phase of the board, and arguably the most important, is the risk mitigation scenario.  

This follows on from the detachment planning and involves having to make a decision on whether to fly aircraft that could have any number of faults, this is a very important part of the course and assessment as these safety critical decisions will be those we may be making when we move on to Squadrons.  

This part of the board is incredibly draining, by the time it comes around most will have been quizzed for 6 or 7 hours and are then asked to make difficult decisions on the airworthiness of a number of aircraft. As soon as this part was over it was my turn to leave the room as the board discussed my performance.

After a long 30 minutes, I was asked back into the room and (thankfully) told I had passed; the board also gave feedback on the areas in which I need to improve moving onwards from the school.

Since the boards, we have completed a couple of courses to assist us in our new roles. The Junior Officers Leadership Course in the Brecon Beacons is a week long course aimed at developing our leadership and coaching skills and Divisional Officer’s Course is a 2 week course at HMS Collingwood to provide us with the tools and knowledge we need to take on the important role of divisional officers.  

We have also taken a part in a week of Adventurous Training with some of the group heading to Bavaria to the Naval Outdoor Centre Germany and some have completed sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding qualifications in the UK.

So that is it, our time at HMS Sultan as students is complete. We will now move on to our nominated squadrons, either at RNAS Yeovilton or RNAS Culdrose, to continue our training up until Christmas. This will culminate when we will sit our Certificate of Competency boards and are authorised to step into the roles that we have all been training so hard for.  

Another class of aspiring AEOs will join Sultan as we leave and follow us through the training pipeline, hopefully some of you reading this will also follow in our footsteps in the not too distant future.  If so, best of luck!

The team at the Royal Naval Air Engineering & Survival Equipment School has worked really hard for and on us; instructing, mentoring and developing us as Officers. At some point in the course, we all hit speed-bumps and they have been there to get us back on track. They are the gate-guardians of the Fleet Air Arm and ensure we only pass when we are ready.

It has not been an easy year, but it has been hugely rewarding; as a class, we are all grateful for the effort that has been expended on us. We are ready!

Yours Aye,
Jack