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Raf Pilots

Volume 210: debated on Tuesday 30 June 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Air Force pilots have left within 10 years of qualifying as pilots in each of the past three years.

The number of Royal Air Force pilots leaving the service within 10 years of qualifying as pilots was 88 in 1989–90, 66 in 1990–91 and 44 in 1991–92.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that interesting and encouraging reply. Will he confirm that it costs more than £4.4 million to train a Tornado pilot these days? Is it not therefore essential that his Department goes out of its way to retain our extremely well-trained, effective and efficient RAF pilots?

Yes. The figure that I have for training is more like £3 million, but even that is a very large sum. We do all that we can to retain people who have cost so much to train. The rate at which they leave depends very much on the health of the airline business generally. There may be signs that it will pick up in future; then, of course, companies find it very profitable to bribe away our well-trained pilots rather than to train their own.

When considering the question of Royal Air Force pilots leaving early, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the proposal that anyone who is trained at public expense to fly RAF aircraft should have a duty for the rest of his flying life to make himself available as and when required, probably on a voluntary part-time basis, to the reserve forces? That seems to be the best way to get value for taxpayers' money.

Yes, I agree absolutely. Anyone who leaves prematurely has to spend four years on reserve, and in that way we get some value for the money that we spend.