Imperial Navy Aircrew (1)

17.08.2009

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The Imperial Navy’s aircrew are an elite body, for every aviator there are a dozen or more failed recruits and for each washed out recruit there are hundreds more would-be aviators who failed to even reach the training stages. Even the humblest cargo shuttle pilot has passed tests and challenges which would confound most of his fellow sailors and is an individual a cut above the conscripts and recruits who fill the vast majority of the Imperial Navy’s ranks. Even the groundcrew, clerks and menials of the Aviation Branch consider themselves better than their big ship Navy counterparts, a piece of bravura which often leads to tension and occasionally violence between the two types of sailor.

Another unique aspect of service in either aviation branch is the limited role that the Navy’s systems of familial lineage and patronage play in advancement and assignments. Navy families and indeed the Navy itself, see the greatest glory in service with the big ships, battleships and the like, and it is here that the patronage game is played the hardest leaving the aviation branches relatively untouched. Ironically in the 41st millennium both aviation branches have seen the rise of a new kind of clique, this time based on the old-boy’s networks of the Schola Progenium and it is not unusual to see Schola graduates favoured by their commanders, usually Schola alumni themselves, in much the same way as familial patronage works in the rest of the Navy.

Recruitment

Imperial Navy aircrew are drawn from three sources - the Navy’s own Schola Progenium, volunteer recruits and, more rarely, from the ranks of the Navy’s technical and mechanical ratings. The Schola Progenium are the largest source of aircrew, particularly pilots, and the Schola on Imperial Navy worlds are rightly famed for the aces and commanders raised from their ranks. Entry into a Navy Schola  requires that one, or more often both, parents of the child have died on active duty in the Imperial Navy. A number of ancient and prestigious Navy Schola have further requirements such as both parents having been commissioned officers or having died honourably in combat and not simply on active service. In the case of the famed Schola Progenium Mackensen, attached to the Navy’s Gothic sector headquarters, at least one parent must be the holder of the Cochrane Starburst, one of the Navy’s highest awards.

The lifelong training and conditioning of Schola graduates fosters greater than usual levels of dedication, even fanaticism, to the Imperial cause, a desirable trait in the face of typically high aircrew casualties. Schola life also provides graduates with a wider variety of military skills, their long, arduous training encompassing in depth analysis of tactics, weapons theory, aerodynamics and the like that older entrants into the training system are unable to match.  Whilst the majority of Schola graduates opt for Orbital Branch aircrew assignments there are still many who are drawn to the romance and history attached to the Aviation Branch, linked as it is to the Imperium’s earliest days,  and many of it’s most famous members were educated and trained in a Navy Schola.

Aircrew volunteers come from two very different sources, the first is best described as the daughters and younger sons of Navy families who see the dangerous but glamorous job of aviator as a way to draw attention from older siblings to themselves. Given the role that family lineage and patronage play in the Navy, particularly for officers, it is not uncommon for families to expend all their political capital and favours to secure a prime posting for the oldest son or sons, leaving few means of advancement for any daughter or junior son who also wishes to join the Navy. Aircrew duty, though more dangerous than life on a cruiser or battleship, also offers more opportunities for advancement and recognition independent of the Navy’s patronage systems. Most female aircrew in the Navy have joined via this path and whilst many have gone on to great things yet more have suffered the all too common fate of young Imperial aviators - death on a distant world or in the depths of space.

The second source of volunteer aircrew recruitment is from the ranks of would-be Navy conscripts. When given the choice between joining the chain-gangs deep in the bowels of a Navy battleship or trying out as aircrew many a new conscript has stepped forward at the petty officer’s barked command. Typically these men and women form the rank and file f the aviation  branches, their roles ranging from aircraft maintenance and clerking to the less-recognised aircrew roles such as Gunner or Cargo Master.

The final source of aircrew for the Imperial Navy is from within its own technical ranks, many aircrew roles, such as Flight Engineer or Vox Operator require a degree of technical knowledge and expertise most often found in the ranks of maitenance crews. Such men are offered incentives such as flight pay, promotions and relief from the more unpleasant duties of their trade in exchange for service aboard an aircraft. Such offers are rarely refused although it is difficult to say whether this is due to these  inducements or because refusal almost always brings a raft of unwelcome and unpleasant assignments for the unlucky sailor.

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The following ‘Imperial Navy Aircrew’ posts will deal with the Armageddon sector Aviation Branch more specifically, providing details of selection, training and the typical combat experience of IN aircrew on Armageddon. Hopefully after that I can fill in the basic org chart and rank details for the Av. Branch in general and the 609th specifically, I’d also really like to do some character profiles for famous 609th members during this stage too.

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