In this series we get under the skin of the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter pilots and try to understand the demands of the role and the skills required.

Major Aristide C, Eurofighter pilot, Italian Air Force 

What is your background?

After leaving the Italian Air Force academy in Pozzuoli, I went to the Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (JSUPT) at Vance Air Force Base in the United States. Then, after graduation I was assigned to the Italian Air Force IX Squadron at the 4th Wing Grosseto. Today I am a Qualified Instructor pilot in the Operational Conversion Unit (20th Squadron). I have around 1,700 Eurofighter Typhoon flying hours

What’s your operational experience? 

I’m a pilot in the 4th Wing and I play my part in our Air Policing mission which safeguards Italian skies and NATO Alliance airspace 24/7. During my career I have taken part in several NATO Air Policing missions where I have had the chance to interact and operate in a multinational arena.

What are key attributes you need to become an elite pilot?

Commitment, dedication, and most of all passion. Becoming a Eurofighter pilot requires commitment in study and training. There’s a long formation period where day by day, through different challenges and sacrifices, you improve your skills and enhance your flying training. Passion for the job is key to being part of the elite.

How focused did you need to be?

You need total focus all the time. Becoming a Eurofighter pilot means endless training — it begins with the military academy and goes on for your entire career. After the training period, when you become an operational pilot, the focus becomes part of your daily business from the planning phase of a mission, during the flight and on to the de-briefing activity.

Did you ever contemplate failing to make the grade – what you might have been?

Actually, and luckily, never! Thanks to a continuous training activity, we get ready to react according to the scenario we operate. Concentration and focus are always required to be a “good” pilot.

Is there any truth in the Hollywood stereotypes? 

Not really. Real life and movies are pretty different but, of course, you can find some similarities. For example, I feel the adrenaline of the movie pilot when the “scramble” alarm suddenly sounds in the squadron facilities, and I run to my Eurofighter for an immediate take off.

What are the pressures like?

Being a Eurofighter pilot is the most beautiful job of the world, but it requires continuous commitment and dedication. The pressure you feel is always closely related to the aims and the objectives you are pursuing. This is why, thanks to a proficient training, you get used to managing pressure and stress in order to accomplish the missions and tasks I receive.

What’s the difference between an average pilot and a leading fighter pilot? 

Thanks to the high professionalism of the pilot trainings schools, we are all trained to reach the highest standards and qualifications. For me, I don’t see differences among pilots.

What skills do you need?

First of all, focus and dedication, because they are part of my daily business. Then airmanship and, last but not least, accuracy —  in terms of dealing with challenges and threats in the right way. 

What kind of person do you need to be?

A normal person that loves doing the job. This is fundamental to face everything that is required to do this job, as a pilot and as a man. 

How do you deal with success? How do you deal with setbacks and challenges?

It is not really a matter of success. We are trained to accomplish each mission we are tasked with in the best way possible. Being a pilot means being prepared for a large spectrum of activities, that includes setbacks or unexpected events. We are used to managing stressful situations, challenges and threats. 

How do you balance being a fighter pilot with a home life?

It is not so easy. I have 2 children and sometimes, I must admit, it is trickier to manage them than the airplane! Of course, I am joking but sometimes I wonder how many sacrifices my family can face up to.

How do you relax? 

I really like to spend my free time with my children, sometimes doing some hobbies or playing sport. 

Do you think your experience as a fighter pilot has influenced the person you are today? 

Definitely. Discipline, commitment and sense of duty are the traits you need to acquire. They’re part of my life and help me to make the right choices.