A remarkable Royal Air Force pilot turned motivational speaker
The Classic team were beyond honoured to have the legendary Mandy Hickson as our guest speaker at our Australia-wide virtual conference in January, celebrating the fresh start of 2021.
With over 30 years within the aviation industry, Mandy joined the Royal Air Force in 1995 and flew the Tornado GR4 on the front line, successfully completing three tours of duty and 45 combat missions. Honoured to represent her country and the opportunity to serve, Mandy was one of the UK’s first female, fast-jet pilots in a male-dominated space. But it wasn’t without a fight.
It all started with a dream as a 13-year-old young girl, a time when women weren’t allowed to be pilots in the Air Force. Not only that, there were numerous obstacles to face including the fact that, out of 3,000 applicants, often only one candidate will successfully end up in the cockpit. A trail blazer, Mandy wasn’t one to back down from a challenge.
Aged 17, she earnt her pilot’s license, before she could even drive a car. In her second year of university, they finally changed the rules and allowed women to join the Air Force. Doors opened, she joined the air cadets, an organisation run by the Royal Air Force, and flew for the first time. This further ignited Mandy’s passion to become one of the first ever female fast-jet pilots.
After four years of being in the Air Force, multiple attempts, unyielding perseverance and a stubbornly positive mindset, she was finally accepted.
Team work makes the dream work
Together with passing flight tests, the willing support of her team and amazing leadership, Mandy achieved goals, solidifying the popular saying that “together everyone achieves more”. With a strong belief that relationships are built on trust, one that’s very much aligned to Classic’s DNA of ‘Service’, ‘Flair’ and ‘Certainty’, Mandy cemented that team work in training and combat is critical. “Everyone needs to want to be there doing their roles, it’s in their hearts and soul. I trusted them” she affirms.
Though she was a passionate team player, Mandy was sure to remain true to her core beliefs and embraced being herself, rather than “being one of the boys”. But she recalls with bemusement how her aviator call sign came to be, “you don’t get to choose your own call sign, I’m 6 foot tall and there was a program at the time called Sesame Street. I was given the name Big Bird, not quite the Top Gun I had in mind.”
She was also posted to Iraq and spent three years there as the only woman serving. As one of the first fast-jet female pilots, Mandy shared with us a crucial military teaching that can be applied in everyday life “to control the controllables, you do what you can to control the situation and if you can’t, you let it ago. This prevents you from worrying about the stress factors that you can’t do anything about.” Fighting on the front line or not, it’s an important reminder of how we can all work hard to focus on what we can do, rather than being bogged down stressing about matters that aren’t in our control.
Having loved her time in the Air Force, she continued to volunteer her time to fly and train air cadets.
A new chapter begins
Now a motivational speaker, Mandy currently lives in the UK with her husband and two sons. True to her motivational speaker wisdom, she noted that by “by having people that believe in us, we can make a true difference to people’s lives. Every single one of us have this gift to do this to people”.
She also recently launched her book ‘An Officer, Not a Gentleman’ that recounts her inspirational story of being a pioneering female fighter pilot. You can purchase the book here.
Still leading by example, in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Mandy currently volunteers at her local hospital, helping with the laundry chores. “It doesn’t matter what role we do, it’s so important to remember that we are all cogs in the machine, and every single job is as important as the next one”.
Classic Architectural Group was thrilled to have Mandy share her wisdom with team members who attended from across the country – it goes without saying that everyone left inspired and driven to pursue their goals.
Shining the spotlight on the Classic DNA and our core values
Sharing her personal story, Mandy’s outlook on career and life is in many ways directly aligned with our Classic DNA and core values.
Whether that’s gender equality in the workforce or making public spaces more accessible to all, here’s a quick reminder of how our DNA and values keep us accountable to our promises.
- Service – Customers first
- Flair – Do everything with style and originality
- Certainty – We never let you down
- Rigorous – We are relentlessly driven to uncompromised world-class quality, service and efficiencies.
- Respectful – We maintain equality and integrity for all of our business partners and users of public space.
- Responsible – We are committed in humility to uphold our obligations to our clients, staff, the community and the environment.
- Resourceful – We are dedicated to providing seamless experiences through insightful, innovative solutions with can-do versatility.
We hope that Mandy’s incredible story has enlightened and inspired you as much as it did with our team. As always, Classic’s here to support your next project.
To learn more about our product and installation services please get in touch with us by calling 1300 244 377 today.