Getting Personal: Banter just a part of officer’s work with British pilots
Stars and Stripes June 13, 2007
Maj. Paul K. Carlton III isn’t your typical American pilot serving his country in the confines and comforts of an American base.
The pilot, from RAF Coningsby, describes himself as a British fighter jet pilot stuck in a U.S. Air Force uniform. He spends his days in an exchange pilot program working side-by-side with his British counterparts and flying Typhoons, the RAF’s new fighter jet.
He is the program’s first U.S. pilot to work with the Typhoon. Carlton has 2,500 hours of flying hours in jet and light aircraft, including 145 combat hours, according to his biography.
How do you feel about being the first U.S. pilot to work with the Typhoon?
Personally, it’s a privilege to be a part of the start-up of the jet, helping to develop their tactics, their relationships with other air forces and watch the change the aircraft is pushing within the RAF.
What’s your role as an exchange pilot? What sort of operations/missions do you conduct?
I act just as an RAF pilot. I am treated the same, attempt to carry myself the same and have an RAF chain of command. Therefore, I do all the missions the RAF pilots do and fully support them.
My role is to learn all I can about the RAF. Learn how they operate, how they function and how they work. The eventual goal is to be able to better support each other when we have to conduct operations.
My role also extends to developing relationships with the [U.S. Air Force], helping the RAF to forge lasting relationships with the USAF. For example, we fly routinely with RAF Lakenheath aircraft in support of both our missions.
How do you like being the lone American in the unit?
The RAF has welcomed me and done their absolute best to meet me as a fully integrated member of their squadron and culture. But it is a challenge to be completely immersed in a culture that is on the surface very much like the U.S., but, in practice, very different socially and culturally.
Do you ever have to endure some friendly hazing or teasing because of your nationality?
Absolutely. Brits love their banter, and I am certainly not exempt. We routinely exchange jabs at each other’s nations in a friendly and good-natured way.
What the biggest thing you’ll take from your exchange experience?
The privilege of being involved in the ground floor of developing a very capable aircraft that will be used for a long while in Europe and around the world.