The trades of Movements Operator and Movements Controller in the Royal Air Force


1.    Perhaps you have considered joining the Royal Air Force as a Movements Operator or have had the trade suggested to you at a Careers Information Office.  If so, a number of important questions may have occurred to you.  For example:

  a.    What are the duties of a Movements Operator in the Royal Air Force?

    b.    What training is provided?

    c.    What are the opportunities for promotion and travel?

    d.    What is the value of Royal Air Force training in civil life?

2.    The purpose of this pamphlet is to provide a brief answer to each of these questions.

The Movements Trades

3.    The Movements Trades are organized within the Supply Trade Group of the Royal Air Force and provide the men to run the RAF Movements Organisation.  You will join the trade as a Movements Operator and after a few years qualifying service and successful completion of further training you will become eligible for promotion to NCO rank as a Movements Controller.  This trade is not open to airwomen because some of the duties are too heavy for them.

Duties of the Trades

4.    The RAF Movements Organisation is largely responsible for the movement by air of personnel of the 3 services and civilians of the Ministry of Defence throughout the world.  It also covers the transportation by air and sea of stores, and vehicles required to maintain our forces overseas.  In a typical year some 586,000 Service passengers were carried by RAF aircraft or chartered aircraft to and from such places as Hong Kong, Singapore, the Persian Gulf, USA/Canada and the Mediterranean area.  Very few servicemen travel by sea these days, but large quantities of cargo are shipped overseas by commercial vessels and considerable amounts are also flown in the RAF’s fleet of cargo carrying aircraft.  52,000 tons of cargo are carried by air and sea in an average year.

5.    To handle this traffic the RAF Movements Organisation maintains Air Movements Squadrons which provide ground handling facilities for loading and unloading our large transport aircraft.  These units are situated at transport bases in the UK and at major airfields overseas.  Service Port Units are also established within certain commercial ports to process service cargoes through the intricacies of international port procedures and the RAF Movements Organisation works closely with members of the other services at these units.  As a Movements Operator you will be responsible for handling cargo and/or passengers and for their documentation – all to the very stringent safety rules inherent in all aircraft operations.  Later on, as  Movements Controller you will have greater responsibilities in the control of aircraft loading activities and the preparation of important aircraft flight clearance documents.  You will also be responsible for the handling of passengers before and after flights.

6.    In all these activities you will be using the most up-to-date cargo handling aids and devices in keeping with the large modern fleet of transport aircraft operated by Air Support Command of the Royal Air Force.  You may serve on a large permanent transport base the activities of which may be likened to a civil airport.  On the other hand you may be one of a select body of men in a Mobile Air Movements Squadron who are trained to operate anywhere in the world for periods ranging from days to weeks in support of national defence exercises and operations under any conditions.  Whatever you do it will be interesting and absorbing work vital to the operational efficiency of the Royal Air Force and the other services.

Trade Training

7.    On completion of recruit training you will undergo an 8 week course at an RAF station to train you as a Movements Operator and on successful completion of your training you will become a Leading Aircraftsman..

8.    There are other courses you may be required to attend during your service career to qualify you for particular duties or for promotion to NCO rank.  These include further training to the trade of Movements Controller (see paragraph 9 below).  Once you have attained senior NCO rank you may be required to attend and Explosives course which will teach you to deal with all types of explosives, chemical weapons and compressed gases.

Promotion Prospects

9.    Promotion in the Royal Air Force is dependent upon each individual’s own ability.  In order to advance from Leading Aircraftsman to Senior Aircraftsman you must have completed one year’s service and passed the appropriate examination.  As a Senior Aircraftsman and having completed at least one tour of duty (of up to 3 years) as a Movements Operator you may be selected for a more advanced training course to qualify you as a Movements Controller.  This is a 5 weeks’ course which covers the broader aspects of Movements duties including load distribution in aircraft and the theory and practice of compiling documents designed to determine the correct balance of a loaded aircraft in flight.  On successful completion of this course and passing an educational test and an examination to test your knowledge of Royal Air Force administration and organisation you would be eligible for promotion to Corporal.

Air Movements Trade Career Ladder

10    Once eligible, promotion to the NCO ranks is by merit against the number of vacancies available in the Movements Organisation.  For further advancement to Sergeant you will have to successfully pass a Post Graduate Training Course of 3 weeks, posses certain educational qualifications which the Royal Air Force gives you ample opportunity to obtain, and demonstrate qualities of leadership.  Before selection for Flight Sergeant you will have to pass a promotion examination but promotion to Warrant Officer is on merit only against vacancies available in that rank.

11.    Airmen in the Movements Trade Group may apply for a commission if they hold the necessary qualifications.


12.    Movements personnel are employed on several large airfields in the United Kingdom and some overseas.  There are ample opportunities for airmen to serve abroad.

Long Term Objectives

13.    The Movements Organisation is vital to the operational efficiency of the Royal Air Force and there is a continual process of modernisation to keep up to date with the latest developments in air transport operations.  The methods we use for the efficient rapid loading/unloading of aircraft are constantly under review and new ideas and equipments are continually being tested in our own large Development Unit.  As a Movements Controller you will be closely connected with these developments and have ample opportunity to become highly competent in their use.

Value of Royal Air Force Training in Civilian Life

14.    The training given to airmen in the Movements Organisation will prove most valuable in any subsequent civilian career.  The knowledge and experience gained in aircraft loading techniques, cargo handling aids, cargo storage, freight procedures, load selection, and in cargo handling, lashing and load restraint factors, passenger reception procedures, airfield practice and office organisation and administration will stand you in good stead after leaving the service.


15.    It is appreciated that your choice of trade is of the utmost importance to you when considering joining the Royal Air Force.  Therefore if after reading these notes you require further advice please do not hesitate to ask the Careers Information Office staff who will gladly give you the information you require.