Q&A with Chip Tennison - Engineering Manager (RAF)



What characteristics does it take to be in the Armed Forces?

The RAF mirrors society in the characteristics of its personnel: there are numerous trades to suit a plethora of personalities and characteristics. However, I guess you must have a great deal of commitment and flexibility to meet the demands of the Service. All said and done, we are members of the military first, before our trade, therefore we could be asked to carry out a range of duties in response to any national crisis or request for assistance, whether that be putting in flood barriers, supporting the emergency services or assisting in high-profile events such as the Commonwealth or Olympic games.

Have you ever felt great pressure in working for the RAF, given the importance of the defence sector? How do you cope with the pressure?

There are always varying levels of pressure in any job, and of course everyone wants everything done yesterday. These pressures come in many forms, whether induced, from security, or by lack of resources, due to environmental conditions, self-induced, from security or by other external factors. We all deal with these in different ways, whether by turning those pressures into motivation, or channelling it into the gym, but by and large it’s our workmates and colleagues who get us through the worst, with what can only be described as military humour.  

Name three of your most memorable achievements.

The first must be graduating from my three-year trade training as a RAF Cosford Air Communications/ Air Radar Apprentice. Second must be gaining my IEng through the experiential route. Thirdly, being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in the last New Year’s Honours.

What are the key elements to a successful training programme?

Of course, there must be correct analysis of the training need, the development of the course profile, and the provision of training assets and equipment. But the single most important element to any training programme, as with any other work, has to be the correct people delivering the course. An individual may know his subject matter, but if he’s not enthused or doesn’t have the skills to correctly deliver that information, or the flexibility to change their approach, then that information is not going to be successfully delivered.

Have you been based overseas?

I have done a number of overseas tours and detachments including the Falkland Islands, Belize, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Gibraltar and Italy.

How crucial is CPD to the modern engineering environment?

Technological advancements are progressing at an astounding rate and as engineers we must keep ourselves abreast of these new technologies. But as well as these advancements, CPD keeps us up to date with changes in health and safety, environmental policies and managerial tools and practices.

What made you apply for professional registration?

I guess this came down to wanting to gain accreditation for the skills, knowledge and experience I have amassed throughout my Service career, to an attributable level understood outside of the military.

How has registration helped you in your career?

It has raised my profile with certain officers, as for many years’ professional registration was viewed as something for commissioned engineering officers only.  This is no longer the case, and the RAF has recently promulgated financial incentives for engineering personnel (both commissioned and noncommissioned) to take up professional registration.

Are professional standards important in raising standards?

Of course! Throughout their training here at RAF Cosford, all aircraft engineers are taught that the difference between a successful aircraft sortie and a catastrophic accident can be their adherence to the strict standards and practices imposed by military engineering publications and doctrines.  I personally believe all engineers should belong to a respective professional engineering institute and abide by Engineering Council professional standards as a bare minimum, just as doctors being registered with the General Medical Council to practice in the UK.  If a doctor gets it wrong, a patient may die; if an engineer gets it wrong, it could be an aircraft full of people, or a train, a bridge collapse, a factory fire or potentially anything. Engineering impacts on everything in the modern world.