Mandy Hickson - Fighter Pilot

090: Mandy Hickson on jet fighter pilot performance

Mandy Hickson on jet fighter pilot performance

This week I spoke to Mandy Hickson. Mandy is a fighter pilot, having joined the Royal Air Force in 1994 and flew the Tornado GR4 on the front line, where she operated in hostile environments, including patrolling the ‘No Fly’ zone over Iraq.

I was fascinated to discuss with Mandy about the physical and mental challenges of training to become a top fighter pilot. I was particularly interested how pilot’s like Mandy improve, what are the stages of progression to go from small craft, to faster and more manoeuvrable craft, and then to train in such a way that you’re ready to operate and perform in a combat zone, where the stakes are as high as they get.

The conversation is so rich with insight, where Mandy unpacks a number of situations, scenarios and seriously pressured circumstances with powerful detail and shares a number of useful frameworks that helped her to manage the fears and doubts but then rise to the top. She shares her insights with a combination of breeziness, fun, care and a level of wisdom that comes from profound experience.

Oh and there’s another detail that’s pretty obvious but in many ways is irrelevant and relevant as you’ll hear in this discussion. She’s a woman who got to the top in a male dominated field. And while that might not matter to some, as a role model to other people aspiring to do something against the odds, she’s an inspiration.


Types of jets and craft Mandy has flown in the RAF

Training takes time 

Grey out, G-Force and the G-suits required to be worn and the pressure of G-Force

Situational awareness and the bigger picture

Notice, understand and think ahead – NUTA

Getting your head out of the detail

Debriefing and best practice

Everyone hates feedback but give me a BOOST – balanced, observed, objective, specific and timely

DODAR Diagnose share with the team, what do you think?, options – what would you do?, option generation leading to the decision by the leader, Assign task and review (or give me a reason not to) 

Being a female fighter pilot

Making better quality decisions and creating a solutions based culture, the ‘Just Culture’


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