RAF Cranwell

Learn how MBTI helped transform training methods

RAF Cranwell is home to the Royal Air Force College (RAFC), which trains the RAF’s new officers, and is the RAF’s Central Flying School. It is the RAF equivalent of Sandhurst or the Britannia Royal Naval College, and is considered by some to be the spiritual home of the RAF.


The Royal Air Force (RAF) is an internationally respected organisation with a proud history and a commitment to ongoing excellence. Maintaining this requires focus on continuous improvement, and sustaining within the culture a keen awareness of the responsibility the Force bears.

As part of this desire for continuous improvement, it was recognised that the method of instructing others would benefit from a shift from a traditional, instructional technique to incorporate a more coaching-based approach. As Squadron Leader Adrian Rycroft, formerly from the Central Flying School (CFS) at RAF Cranwell, commented at the time: “We were aware that the old system of ‘explain, demonstrate, criticise mistakes then repeat’ was not effective in producing consistently high performance. We saw that this teaching style does not suit everyone and for some, creates stress in itself over time, rather than building confidence.”

At the time the CFS’s ‘Airmanship and Human Factors’ training programme was covered by two courses: one for initial aircrew students and one for aircrew instructors who were just beginning their professional training. Drop-out rates at a late stage in pilot training have could cost the RAF up to £2.5 million per student, so the desire to ensure success for participants on both courses was extremely strong.

The RAF designed a coaching programme to train their flying instructors in the use of coaching techniques to maximise performance and increase retention. It was keen to embed a psychometric tool within the coaching programme and opted for the MBTI® instrument over its competitors, for two reasons. They were attracted to its pedigree – a 50-year track record of well documented research and application – and to its versatility and flexibility – the different levels of depth that can be achieved when using it, and its applicability in multiple contexts. As a result they approached The Myers-Briggs Company Consultancy, as European MBTI distributors and experts in performance coaching, to co-design and deliver the programme.

The ‘Aircrew Performance Coaching’ course was a four-week programme consisting of the following elements:

  • Week One: Introduction to coaching, basic coaching skills and effective communication
  • Week Two: Attend the MBTI Qualifying workshop (Part One); Introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques and practical sessions
  • Week Three: Attend the MBTI Qualifying workshop (Part Two); attend MBTI and coaching course; input on performance coaching and goal setting
  • Week Four: Advanced coaching skills (including Gestalt principles of coaching); high ropes and a coaching assessment day

The whole programme was run two to three times a year and was completed by a cohort of six people at a time.

The MBTI philosophy around the constructive use of differences was key to developing the Airmanship and Human Factors training. It helped the RAF nurture a genuinely supportive and productive environment, where difficulties were acknowledged, but in parallel, strategies for resolving them were taught that allowed everyone to progress.

As Adrian explained, “The MBTI tool provides various communication and problem-solving models with many practical applications for the RAF, including situational awareness, decision-making and mental performance. It is particularly helpful in encouraging students to think about the different communication styles that they and the people they interact with employ.”

“Everyone feels they can apply the MBTI tool, especially flying instructors; it equips them with the means to transfer their knowledge effectively, whoever their audience.”

Feedback on the coaching element was very positive: “People have only good things to say about it!” says Adrian. “Some students have told us that if it hadn’t been for this, they would have failed. Drop-out rates at a late stage in the training could cost the RAF up to £2.5 million per student, and this is helping everyone to get 100% out of the training and the money invested in it.”

The newly introduced coaching element was such a success that RAF Cranwell decided to apply for accreditation from the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), further cementing the credibility and long-term application of their work with The Myers-Briggs Company.

The MBTI tool provides practical applications for situational awareness, decision-making, and mental performance. It has been particularly helpful in encouraging people to think about the different communication styles that they and the people they interact with employ.

Sqn Ldr Adrian RycroftOfficer Commanding the Human Factors Centre. RAF Cranwell