Flt Lt Nicky Smith, first female RAF helicopter pilot

Nicky Smith was born in Colchester in 1969 and studied aeronautical engineering at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where she joined Cambridge University Air Squadron in 1986. She was the first female RAF helicopter pilot and in 2002 she became the first female RAF officer to take command of a flying squadron.

Regraded from acting pilot officer to pilot officer on 15 July 1989, she passed out from the RAF College Cranwell in 1990 with the Sash of Merit as best female cadet. She was promoted flying officer on 15 January 1990 and in November 1990 she transferred from the Engineer Branch to the General Duties Branch as aircrew, becoming one of the first female trainee pilots in the RAF.

Smit was promoted flight lieutenant on 15 January 1992. She went to RAF Swinderby for elementary flying training, returned to Cranwell for basic flying training, and then went to RAF Shawbury, where she became the first woman in the RAF to qualify as a helicopter pilot in October 1992.

She became a search and rescue pilot flying Westland Sea Kings, initially with 22 Squadron at RAF Valley on Anglesey and then with 202 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, flying more than 250 missions. She was promoted squadron leader in 1999 and, after several ground jobs at Cranwell, she trained on Westland Wessex helicopters with 72 Squadron at RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland before being posted to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus to take command of 84 Squadron in 2002.

She retired from the RAF in September 2006, although keeping her ties with the service by joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) as a flying officer, and taught mathematics at Felsted School until September 2007, when she joined CHC Helicopter as business development manager and Soteria Search and Rescue as transition manager. In April 2011, she joined Essex and Hertfordshire Air Ambulance as a pilot.

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