Former RAF parachute instructor commended
for gallantry, Bob Kent, studied part-time for City
& Guilds Mechanical Engineering Certificates at
Bradford Technical College from 1963 to 1968.
As one of the RAF’s top free fall parachutists, Bob risked his life to rescue an injured soldier who plummeted towards ground during a Special Forces parachute training mission in California in 1985. He swooped down and managed to pull the wounded man’s ripcord at 3000ft, releasing his own parachute just seconds before reaching the critical 2000ft opening limit.
Bob received an RAF commendation, an award from the Royal Life Saving Society and was presented to the Princess Royal in recognition of his bravery.
Bob had originally trained as an engineer,
attending College while serving an Engineering
apprenticeship with the English Electric Company
at Thornbury. “Each year the company would
release me to attend College for a period of 3
months block release to study engineering-related
subjects; mathematics, engineering drawing,
English and workshop theory. The instruction was
good and I really used to enjoy attending. The
work completed at College was very useful in any
area of life.
At that time I was also serving with 23 SAS TAVR in Leeds, and having completed the military parachute course with them, I decided to join the RAF as a Parachute Jumping Instructor. Before qualifying as a PJI, I had to qualify as a Physical Training Instructor. As I had always wanted to fly, I waved goodbye to engineering on my 22nd birthday in 1969.
After a couple of years
training, I started to fly as an RAF PJI, eventually
completing over 3000 parachute descents
myself with the RAF Falcons Display Team and
as a Test/Trials Parachutist, travelling round the
world several times. I also spent 4 years as a
combat survival instructor and 4 years teaching
management skills to newly promoted NCOs.”
At Bob’s routine exit medical from the RAF in 1998, the doctor doing the told him he needed 2 new hips. “I suppose that was the price I had to pay in exchange for a wonderful career doing what I liked best – jumping out of aeroplanes. I am very grateful for the start that Bradford Technical College gave me and although I did not end up in engineering, it proved very useful for my education. During my latter years in the RAF, I completed a BSc (Hons) Psychology with the Open University and followed that up with an MA in Education.”
Photograph supplied by Bob Kent