Oct 20 My Work Experience in the Air Corps

My Work Experience in the Air Corps

By Benjamin Thomson  


I’ve always had a keen interest in Aviation and applied through the Air Corps website to participate in a weeklong Air Corps Transition Year programme. Once accepted, I was provided with a detailed schedule of activities which involved getting an insight into aircraft maintenance, reconnaissance and safety and air traffic control. The experience was very positive, and I learnt so much about different avenues on offer within the aviation division. For those interested, I provided a breakdown of daily activities to show the content and variety covered. I particularly enjoyed the Air Traffic control and pilot segments.


The day began with a short brief on what the week would hold and what was required of participants throughout the week, including a fitness test at the end of the week. After the meeting, we attended a CRM (Crew Resource Management) session. The importance of teamwork in a stressful environment was emphasised. It was clear that if a team worked effectively together the results would be better than one person working alone. Next, we had a fixed wing hangar tour. We were able to speak to pilots and one of the fixed wing maintenance crews. The pilots discussed their qualifications and the different mission sets that they must fly, including air ambulance and surveillance of Irish waters. The aircraft maintenance team spoke about their vital role of maintaining the airworthiness of the aircraft and how they applied to be an apprentice in the air corps. We even got to walk inside the president’s private jet. Finally, we got an interesting brief on photography and the many uses in the military. It is mainly used for surveillance as well as aerial photography using drones for events.


The day began with a rotary wing tour. We spoke to the helicopter pilots, the crewmen on board and the maintenance team. The helicopter pilot talked us through many of the procedures needed to land. The crewman talked through his job. He was a qualified advanced paramedic, winchman and lineman. It was interesting to learn that there were other jobs inside the helicopter, not just being a pilot. Afterwards, we had a mental health brief about what effects excess stress can have on the body.  Finally, we had a hands-on experience of a survival workshop which introduced us to the basics of SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). This was interesting as we learned how to make a fire using a fire steel and with a battery and steel wool. We also learned about the different uses for knives, for example the difference between a hunting and combat knife.


We were led to the mechanic’s shop where we were introduced to all the vehicles that the Irish Air Corps use for logistics. This included fuel trucks, range rovers and a Scania troop transport truck. We also visited where the Irish rangers train for aviation anti-terrorism. They train on an old 4 engine plane that was brought from the Irish government for €1. Afterwards, we went to the armory where we had a weapons specialist go through all the different types of weapons that the Irish Rangers and pilots carried. We also got to experience the weight of the packs of equipment that the soldiers carry. Next, we had a military police brief. This was given by the commander of the military police; he explained their role in the military and what procedures change during peace and war time. He also explained the difference between himself and the civilian police. Finally, to end the day we took part in a first aid workshop. This included learning the basics of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and how to apply a tunicate properly. After we received a taste for the practical side, we learned about the different levels of EMT (emergency medical technicians). Then we received a lecture on the importance of good hygiene and how diseases spread quickly overseas in third world countries.


First thing on Thursday we went around to the logistics unit in the Air Corps. This comprised of the welding workshop, fuel depo and the safety workshop. We received an introduction into the jobs that each section covered. Each section worked on keeping the planes up in the sky flying. We learned that no water can be present in the fuel otherwise it will stall the engines in the plane causing it to crash. When a pilot ejects from an airplane his lifejacket will automatically inflate as the G forces can knock the pilot unconscious. The welders provide second line maintenance to aircraft like welding the superstructure on the exhaust pipes. Afterwards, we had a history tour around Baldonnel. We visited the Church inside there was murals on almost all the stain glass windows, depicting fallen soldiers, achievement and the values of the Air Corps. Then we went to the museum this contained many old but restored planes that the Air Corps once flew. Next, we received a fire demonstration by the aviation firefighting unit on side. This was done by setting a mock metal plane alight. The fire was fueled by gas lines inside and outside. The firefighters were tasked with putting out the fire as fast as possible. It took them only 2 and a half minutes to put it out. Afterwards we were talked through the equipment that was used as well as the requirements for being a fire fighter. Finally, we went over to ATC (air traffic control). This was a building closest to the runway with line of sight everywhere on base. We spoke to the air traffic controllers about the stress they face and the precautions they take to make sure every plane makes it back to the ground safely. Next, we went to the radar room where the experience the system that is used to track planes coming through Baldonnel’s airspace. Next, we went to see the BCU (bird control unit). This unit was tasked with keeping bird away from the runway. Bird strikes can destroy engines and other parts of the plane they pose a severe risk to the pilot and crew. The BCU uses birds like the Peregrine Falcon, air rifles and loudspeakers to keep birds away.


The final day started with a trip to FTS (Flight Training School). This is where we learned about the avenues to becoming a pilot in the Air Corps. 10 spots are allocated to candidates each year. The programme takes about a year to complete with 128 lessons. The Air Corps also have their own PC-9 flight simulator which is the plane that the cadets learn to fly on. The simulator is also used for replicating scenarios that are too dangerous to do on the real aircraft. This simulator allows pilots to learn and make mistakes without the same consequences. Afterwards we spoke to candidates for the cadet and apprenticeship programmes. The cadets talked us through what they thought of the program which was positive. The students in the apprenticeship talked about their experience on base and what type of opportunities the licence they received from the Air Corps would hold in the future. Finally, we had a health and fitness brief. This was about the importance of a healthy diet and what food they provide to the personnel on base to keep them going. Finally, the minimum fitness requirements for the Air Corps were discussed. This included 20 push-ups in a minute, 20 sit-ups in a minute and a 2.4km run in under 11 minutes 40 seconds. Afterwards, we received a certificate of achievement for the week from the TY coordinator in the Air Corps.


I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in the Air Corps. If you have a keen interest in aviation, I advise this work experience. There was so much variety throughout the work experience which kept the experience interesting.