Rear Adm Colin Cooke-Priest is the first full career naval aviator to be appointed master of The Guild of Air Pilots & Air Navigators. He explains to Working Week what the role entails

What are your key duties?

The master is chairman of the court and of its executive sub-committee and is required to ensure their policy decisions are carried out. As an ex-officio trustee he will attend meetings of the guild's charitable trusts and benevolent fund and the trophies and awards, education and training and technical and air safety committees. During his year the master is the senior ambassador for the guild and will represent the company at many functions, ranging from the lord mayor's annual banquet for masters to the presentation of aviation scholarships and certificates.

What experience and qualifications are needed?

Obviously a background in aviation, but not necessarily current, considerable management experience, including familiarity with current human resources and accounting practice, a confident personality at ease with public speaking and a genuine interest in people.

Colin Cooke-Priest

What is the most challenging aspects of the job?

The guild membership encompasses extraordinary breadth and depth of aviation experience and expertise. The challenge is to both harness this bank of knowledge for the benefit of aviation generally and to heighten awareness of its existence so that others, both nationally and internationally, can and do make use of it.

What do you enjoy most?

The guild is unique among the City's livery companies in having overseas regions in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and, very recently set up, in Canada. A further region, in South Africa, is in course of formation. The opportunity to share different aviation problems and approaches to their resolution is an exciting prospect. Equally, the opportunity to recognise and reward outstanding bravery or achievement is a huge privilege.

Can you describe a typical week?

After just three weeks in the master's chair, a "typical" week has yet to emerge. The opening week included an audience with the guild's grand master, HRH The Duke of York, a meeting with the chief executive of British Airways, a banquet at the Mansion House, the United Guild's service in St Paul's Cathedral, a lunch with the Fanmakers Company and a service in St Clement Danes to celebrate the formation of the Royal Air Force. Next week will be rather more mundane. Most weeks will include some committee work, a social function frequently involving a speech and some inevitable paperwork.

Why do you think a naval officer has not been selected before?

One previous master had an early background as a short service naval helicopter pilot. He then left the Royal Navy for what was then BOAC and subsequently British Airways, so I am the first full career naval officer to hold the post. There are, of course, a number of former naval aviators in the guild, perhaps not as many as I would like, but you have to stand for election - first as a warden and then for master. No career naval officer has previously stood for election.

How long do you expect to stay in the role?

A master holds the appointment for one year. There is a set procedure for progression which starts with election to the court as an "assistant". Each year one assistant is elected as a warden, after which the progression is three years as a warden, one year as master-elect, one year as master and finally one year as "immediate past master" - so it is effectively a six- year stint. By the time I reach the end of my immediate past master year I should be well and truly past my sell-by date. Perhaps there will be time to go back to sea on a cruise!


Source: Flight International