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Chris Borthwick DATCO
Chris Borthwick DATCO
Chris Borthwick DATCO

Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Degrees

Published: 01 Nov 2017

What do you think are the benefits of joining the Royal Navy? See the world? Work with great people? Use state- of-the-art equipment in modern ships? Top class training and be awarded a degree? Yes to all these. Aircrew have been receiving honours degrees for a few years now, but just around the corner are degrees for Air Traffic Controllers and Aircrewmen


The partnership between the Royal Navy and Open University (OU) started in 2013. Aircrew flying certain aircraft types were awarded a Foundation Degree in ‘Military Aviation Studies’ when they passed basic flying training and received their ‘Wings’. This is now open to all Pilots and Observers and was renamed ‘Aviation Systems Management’ in March 2016. They receive a full honours degree after successful submission of a number of pieces of written work about flying, general Naval knowledge and pass an oral board. None of these honours degree elements are new; they are all part of the flying training process that has been in place for a number of years. The whole process equates to the Certificate of Competency (C of C), the point where aircrew are fully trained and are able to fly and fight their aircraft. Depending on the level of success at C of C will determine the grade of honours degree.


The leaders of Fleet Air Arm want all fully qualified personnel to have the opportunity to work for a degree. Along with Pilots and Observers, just around the corner are Air Traffic Controllers and Aircrewmen. The paper work is with the OU to enable Air Traffic Controllers to receive a Foundation Degree in Airspace Management from January 2018. So far all those involved in the OU Degree scheme are officers, but from April 2018, if all goes well, Aircrewmen, Foundation Degree in Aviation System Management. Aircrewmen work with Observers tactically fighting the Merlin helicopters. They also perform secondary roles such as winching and load lifting. Following further validation with the OU, once additional modules have been completed, it is intended that both of these new degrees will be eligible to be upgraded to full Honour Degrees.


One of the first Air Traffic Controllers in line to be awarded his degree is Lieutenant Chris Borthwick from RNAS Culdrose. As a non-graduate he is delighted that he will be receiving his degree with no personal financial burden. ‘It has been hard work to reach this stage, but it is great to have academic recognition for all the military and air traffic controlling training I have done. We are just waiting for the final endorsement from the Open University.’


Commander Jerry Ovens (retired) is the man behind the degree programmes. ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed managing the Fleet Air Arm Military Aviation Academy. I realise how much work goes into getting your Wings or C of C, whether you are a Pilot, Observer, Aircrewman or Air Traffic Controller. All this hard work needs to be recognised. I am delighted that the OU agrees with us and awards our people’s hard work. Not only do you have a great career in the RN, you can leave with a degree, a qualification recognised by future employers too!’


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