Copyright © 2012 Paul McDonald
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Copyright © 2012 Paul McDonald
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Cadet Paul McDonald, age 16, in front of a Spitfire at the former Battle of Britain airfield, RAF Manston, August 1965

Squadron Leader Paul McDonald taking Snoopy on his first Tornado sortie from Decimomannu in Sardinia, 1988

Group Captain T P McDonald OBE RAF, UK  Senior National Representative, NATO Air HQ, Ramstein, Germany, 2002-2004

Paul McDonald was a working class ‘Geordie’, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and brought up near the steel town of Consett where his father worked. He was educated at St Joseph’s Grammar School, Hebburn-on-Tyne. He became an Air Cadet at the age of 14 and qualified as a glider pilot when he was 17; he went on to gain his Private Pilot’s Licence at the age of 18. On leaving school he worked for a County Durham firm of chartered surveyors and estate agents for over three years. After having served as a Civilian Instructor and an RAF reserve officer with the Air Cadets, Paul joined the RAF in 1971.


His first two flying tours were on Canberras, with 7 Squadron at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall and then his first overseas tour with XIII Squadron at RAF Luqa in Malta. He then became a Jet Provost Qualified Flying Instructor and served on the Refresher Flying Squadron at RAF Leeming. He was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air in 1981 following an incident in a Jet Provost. During 1980 and 1981, he was seconded to the Central Flying School to fly the Meteor with the Vintage Pair Display Team.



In 1983 Paul was selected for cross-over pilot training to fast-jets. After courses on the Hawk, he commenced training on the new into-service Tornado GR1 with the Tornado Tri-national Training Establishment at RAF Cottesmore and then the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit  at RAF Honington. By now a squadron leader, Paul’s second overseas tour began with the newly-formed 20 Squadron at RAF Laarbruch in what was then West Germany. It was during this tour that he became a Qualified Flying Instructor on the Tornado. His third overseas tour began when he moved south to RAF Bruggen as the Training Officer on the newly-formed 14 Squadron where he later became the Executive Officer (Deputy Squadron Commander).

 

His first ground appointment was as the Department of Air Warfare’s Central Region Specialist at the RAF College Cranwell. After attending the Joint Services Defence College at Greenwich, he was selected as the Personal Staff Officer to the Air Officer Commanding Training Group. In March 1992, as a wing commander, he took command of the Flying Training Wing of No 1 Flying Training School, RAF Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.

Paul then joined the Directing Staff of the Royal College of Defence Studies in Belgrave Square in London. He was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1995. His fourth overseas tour was in Kuwait as an adviser to the Kuwait Air Force. His final tour, and fifth overseas tour, was at the NATO Air Headquarters at Ramstein in Germany.

Since retiring from the RAF, Paul has maintained his links with the Air Cadets, where his association with the ‘light blue’ first began as a teenager. He is currently a volunteer gliding instructor with No 642 Volunteer Gliding Squadron. He is married to Jackie and they now live in in North Yorkshire. They have two adult children. Their son Matthew, his American wife, Dionne, and their son, Joaquin, live in Los Angeles. Their daughter Hannah, is a flight lieutenant air traffic controller in the RAF and, having completed two overseas tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, is currently based in Scotland.