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1.0     Introduction

This article provides an overview of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Physical Training Instructor (PTI) Course.

2.0     What is the RAF PTI Course?

The RAF PTI Course is the initial training programme utilised by the RAF to select and train its exercise professionals who form part of the Physical Education (PEd) branch.

3.0     What is the Role of a RAF PTI?

The role of a PTI in the RAF is varied and encompasses:

  • Design and delivery of physical training and testing.
  • Provide advice and guidance to personnel on injury prevention and rehabilitation.
  • Sports and games including organising, officiating, and participation.
  • Core military skills including Battle PT, fitness assessments and protocols, and delivery of parts of SERE training.
  • Airmen development.
  • Force development and adventurous training activities.
  • RAF health and fitness strategy and policies.

3.1     Personnel Branch Officers

Personnel Branch officers with a Physical Education (PEd) competency are established at:

  • HQ 22 (Training) Group;
  • RAF stations and units;
  • The RAF School of Physical Training;
  • The Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC);
  • Force Development Training Centres (FDTC’s);
  • HQ 2 Group; and
  • Airborne Delivery Wing (ADW).

Where appropriate they are assisted by PTI’s.

4.0     Brief History

A brief history of the RAF School of Physical Training and PTI’s can be found here.

5.0     Who is Eligible to Become a RAF PTI?

The RAF accepts candidates as direct entry (i.e. civilians) and in-service (i.e. those already in the RAF).

Candidates must (RAF, 2018):

  • Be aged 16–47 years old (Must attest before 48th birthday).
  • Have GCSE at Grade C/4-5 or SCE Standard Grades at Grade 2/Scottish National 5 in English Language and Maths.
  • Be a citizen of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, holder of dual UK/other nationality or have been a Commonwealth citizen since birth.
  • Commit minimum 3 years post Phase Two Training (RAF Reserve).
  • Meet the health and fitness criteria.
  • Pass the Airman Selection Test.
  • Pass a General Fitness Test.

6.0     What are the Steps to Becoming a RAF PTI?

In simple terms, there are three stages to becoming a RAF PTI:

  • Stage 1: Attend the Selection Process.
  • Stage 2: Attend Phase 1 initial/basic training.
  • Stage 3: Attend Phase 2 employment/career training.

These steps are explained in more detail below.

7.0     What is the Selection Process for RAF PTI’s?

There are several steps in the selection process for RAF PTI’s, as outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Outline of Selection Process for RAF PTI’s

EducationMathematics and English language: GCSE grade 4 (grade c prior to August 2017) or Scottish National grade 5.
Aptitude TestThe first step in the application process is the Airman/Airwomen Selection Test (AST). This test is a measure of the candidate’s aptitude and ensures the RAF matches the right candidate to the right role.
It takes place at candidates’s nearest Armed Forces Careers Office (AFCO) and consists of seven multiple choice sections focusing on different skills:
o Verbal reasoning tests use and interpretation of written information.
o Numerical reasoning measures ability with basic fractions, decimals and formulae.
o Work rate checks for fast and accurate completion of tasks.
o Spatial reasoning gauges understanding of how shapes and objects work.
o Electrical comprehension tests the ability to work with electrical concepts.
o Mechanical comprehension measures grasp of mechanical concepts.
o Memory assesses ability to remember information accurately.
Selection InterviewThis interview will take place at a local AFCO and cover the following topics: family life; education; work experience; special interests or hobbies; interest in the RAF; training; the role you have applied for; and the RAF (i.e. the candidate’s knowledge of it).
Assessment CentreCandidates will spend up to three days at the RAF School of Physical Training, RAF Cosford, undertaking specialist interviews and demonstrating their motor skills and physical endurance.
The assessment comprises a series of demanding activities, as outlined in Section 7.1.
Health AssessmentCandidates are (legally) required to meet certain medical standards, and must pass an occupational health assessment.
Standards include: hearing; eyesight; body mass index (BMI) (Table 2); screening for health issues; and discussing any previous illnesses.
Fitness TestCandidates must be physically fit to complete both initial and specialist training, and to perform their role effectively.
To check a candidate’s fitness levels (Table 3), the RAF puts every candidate through two or three separate fitness tests as part of the application process: Selection Fitness Test, Pre-joining Fitness Test or Pre-recruit Training Course.
How ‘fit’ a candidate needs to be to pass these tests can vary depending on role, age and gender.
Background ChecksDeclare any previous spent and unspent convictions
Check if you qualify under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
Have a basic background check to get Security Check level clearance.
Provisional OfferFor those candidates who successfully complete the above process, they will be invited to a provisional offer of service interview at their nearest AFCO.
The purpose of this interview is to ensure the candidate understands the terms and conditions of service in the RAF, is fully committed to joining, and is prepared to commence their training.

Table 2: BMI requirements by age and gender

AgeMinimum (Male & Female)Maximum (Maled & Female)Maximum (Male with Additional Assessment)Maximum (Female with Additional Assessment)

Table 3: Fitness requirements by age and gender [1]

Age24 km (1.5m) RunMulti-Stage Fitness Test (MSFT)Press-upsSit-ups


  1. First time/score/number is for males, second is for females.

7.1     Outline of the Three Day Assessment Centre

Candidates will spend up to three days at the RAF School of Physical Training, RAF Cosford, undertaking specialist interviews and demonstrating their motor skills and physical endurance.

The process is also known as the Specialist Vetting Course, Specialist Interview or the Specialist Course.

Joining instructions and course information is sent out to candidates prior to arrival.

The assessment centre comprises a series of demanding activities (Table 3).

Table 4: Outline of Assessment Centre

IntroductionCollect pass and ID from the guardroom.
Check into accommodation.
Receive candidate number.
Outline of the process from PTI staff (bring pen/pencil and paper).
Always undertaken on Day One.
Written TestAn interview with a Staff Instructor from the School.
A really good knowledge of the career path of the RAF PTI.
All of your achievements, especially sporting and leadership.
Why you want (specifically) to be a PTI in the RAF.
Typically undertaken on Day Two.A short (multi-choice) written test relating to the PTI trade and specific course subject matter (e.g. physiology and nutrition).
Typically undertaken on Day One.
Cardio-respiratory TestThe multi-stage fitness test (MSFT), or bleep test – a maximal test.
Typically undertaken on Day Two.
Endurance TestConsists of two sub-tests, press-ups and sit-ups, of one minute each. Aim to achieve maximum number of repetitions within the time limit.
Typically undertaken on Day Two.
Group Control & Management TasksA selection of indoor exercises to evaluate:
Intra- and inter-personal skills.
The ability to project voice and demonstrate confidence:
In delivering a physical warm-up; and
When officiating a sports game or activity.
Lead warm-up, usually lasting 5-7 minutes (typically given overnight to prepare).
Concentrate on confidence, manner, and techniques.
Typically undertaken on Day Two.
Transferable Motor SkillsEach candidate will be assessed in a Sports Specific Circuit, which includes: Volleyball; Hockey; Cricket; Football; Badminton; and Basketball.
This means candidates will have to show they can instruct and demonstrate a set skill from a sport the assessors will give the candidate when they get there!
Typically undertaken on Day Two.
Presentation/Pen PictureA self-portrait presentation lasting five minutes, accompanied by a hand written submission of the presentation.
Stay within the time frame (typically 10 seconds leeway either side).
Typically undertaken on Day Three.
Swimming Test [1]Candidates must complete the following swimming assessment:
Enter into the deep end and then swim 50m in less than 60 seconds (pass/fail).
Immediately tread water for 2 minutes.
Swim 60m backstroke followed by 60m breast-stroke and 60m front crawl (not timed and completed consecutively).
Surface dive to retrieve a 1kg rubber block from the deep end (3m depth) (one go only and pass/fail).
Climb out of the pool unaided.
Typically undertaken on Day Three.
Stamina & Physical Courage Assessment (SAPCA)SAPCA comprises five, one minute tests, each of which should be performed maximally. The tests include:
A rope climb;
Weighted bergen run;
Repetitive lift (sandbag front squat);
Casualty drag; and
Jerry can carry.
SAPCA is immediately followed by a repeat of the MSFT.
Typically undertaken on Day Three.


  1. Candidates who fail the swimming element or produce results of an unacceptable standard could be withdrawn from the assessment centre.

7.2     Scoring for the Assessment Centre

During the assessment centre, examiners will utilise a scoring system:

  • 1 being bad.
  • 2 being a poor pass.
  • 3 being a pass.
  • 4 being a good pass.

All elements within the assessment centre are scored using the 1-4 marking. However, it is important to note that candidates are assessed against their peers attending the assessment centre. This means it is important to give 100% during all elements of the assessment centre, as one extra press-up or sit-up could mean the difference between being accepted or not!

Once candidates have completed all elements of the assessment centre, they are invited into the office to be informed about their performance, both were they excelled and areas for improvement.

Due to the competitive nature of the role, a pass does not guarantee an offer of a job as a RAF PTI. Notification of a successful job offer can take a few days or weeks. Those unsuccessful may be invited to attend another assessment centre at a later date.

Candidates who successfully complete the Assessment Centre will transition on to Phase 1 basic training.

8.0     What is the Phase 1 Basic Training for RAF PTI’s?

Phase 1 basic training is delivered over 10 weeks at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire, and consists of six phases as outlined in Table 5.

Table 5: outline of Phase 1 Basic Training

Arrival0Candidates are sworn into the RAF and given a Service number.
Administration and issue of initial clothing.
General Service Training1-24Training during this initial phase includes fitness; inspections of dress; living quarters; lessons in marching; drills; core values; code of conduct; and RAF history.
Force Development Training25-30This includes adventurous training activities like a two day mountain walking expedition.
Initial Force Protection Training31-54During this phase of training, candidates will learn how to survive and fight in a military environment.
This will include weapon handling and firing, camouflage and concealment, first aid, and CBRN drills.
Exercise Blue Warrior55-58During these four days candidates experience real battle conditions with controlled explosions and small arms fire using blanks.
Graduation59-70This final phase of training will prepare candidates for life in the RAF, teach them what is required in their first post, and demonstrate the candidate’s role fits into the wider RAF.
It culminates with the graduation parade.

Candidates who successfully complete Phase 1 training will transition on to Phase 2 employment training.

9.0     What is the Phase 2 Employment Training for RAF PTI’s?

Phase 2 employment training, also known as trade training, is where candidates learn the skills and knowledge for their specific role in the RAF, in this case PTI.

The exact number of candidates per course varies due to the demands of the Service, although typically ranges from 11 to 17 students per course.

There have been various iterations of the initial qualification course, with the current iteration (2018) being 28 weeks in duration and composed of [10/12] modules (down from 30 and then 29 weeks). In 2006, the initial course was revamped with a personal training award at level 3 becoming an integral part. Candidates of PTI Course 71 graduated with a CYQ Certificate in Personal Training (HCM, 2006). In 2018, the course was aligned with the Chartered Institute of Management for Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) professional standards, with PTI Course 94 (October 2018) being the first to graduate as CIMSPA endorsed (CIMSPA, 2018).

In simple terms, the course will qualify candidates in:

  • Instructional techniques across a broad range of physical domains and human performance.
  • Anatomy and physiology.
  • Exercise science.
  • Health and fitness strategy.
  • Leadership.
  • Core military skills.
  • Organisation and management of physical education.
  • Coaching techniques.
  • Games and sports administration and officiating.

Candidates will receive formative and summative testing via practical and theory assessments and examinations.

9.1     Graduation

During the course and on graduation, candidates will receive various qualifications, for example, the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification. Graduates will also be eligible to join the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) at Level 3 and CIMSPA.

Post-course there is the opportunity to study for a BSc in Physical Activity, Health and Exercise.

In April 2012, Matt Hobday, a former Air Cadet, became one of the RAF’s youngest Corporal’s at the age of 20 (Griffin, 2012).

Since April 2015, candidates will serve a period of twelve years on a Notice Engagement in the rank of Acting Corporal. After completing one year’s total service providing the candidate passes further training courses, they will be confirmed in the rank of Corporal. Further promotion to the rank of Sergeant and beyond is by competitive selection.

10.0     Specialisation for RAF PTI’s

Once candidates have graduated from their initial training course they will then undertake specialisation training in one of three areas of the PEd branch:

  • Exercise Rehabilitation Instructors (ERI):
    • In 2018, there were 51 RAF regular PTI posts serving at most bases within medical centres, regional rehabilitation units, and the Defence National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) (RAF PTI Association, 2018).
    • ERI’s also serve in Cyprus (3 posts) and the Falkland Islands (1, 6 month rotational post).
  • Parachute Jump Instructors (PJI):
    • PJI’s may receive training in/on the basic parachute course, static line square course, high altitude parachute course, tandem parachute course, and free-fall training.
    • PJI’s work in the Parachute Training Squadron, part of the Airborne Delivery Wing, RAF Brize Norton.
  • Force Development Instructors (FDI):
    • In late 2017, Adventurous Training Instructors (ATI’s) were renamed FDI’s, who now deliver Adventurous Personal Development Training (APDT).
    • Adventure training centres have been renamed Robson Resilience Centre’s (RRC):
      • RRC Grantown on Spey (RRC G).
      • RRC Crickhowell (RRC C).
      • RRC Bavaria (RRC B).
      • RRC Danesfield (RRC D).
      • RRC St Mawgan (RRC S).
    • FDI training is delivered at RRC G with two courses being held per year. Each course is 31 weeks with six students per course.
    • In 2018, there were approximately 58 FDI’s (RAF PTI Association, 2018).

11.0     Physical Education Flight

Once candidates have completed their specialisation training they will be posted to a Physical Education Flight within one of the RAF’s various stations or units.

12.0     Useful Publications

  • Queen’s Regulations for the Royal Air Force. Chapter 9 – Training. Section 7 – Physical Education and Parachute Training. Amendment 35, June 2014.
  • Air Publications (AP):
    • AP 3342:
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 402.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 503.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 801.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 802.
    • AP 3342: Leaflet 803.
  • Basic Physical Training Instructor Course Information Handbook 2009 (obsolete).

13.0     Useful Links

14.0     References

CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for Management of Sport and Physical Activity). (2018) Royal Air Force School of Physical Training Partners with CIMSPA. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 12 December, 2018].

Griffin, K. (2012) Honiton Man Becomes Youngest RAF Corporal. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

HCM (Health Club Management). (2006) RAF Trainees Achieve CYQ Award. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

RAF (Royal Air Force). (2018) Personnel Support: Physical Training Instructor. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 17 December, 2018].

RAF PTI Association. (2018) Minutes of the PTI Assiciation AGM Held at The Holiday Inn Hotel on Saturday 14th April 2018 at 1500 hrs. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 19 December, 2018].