Longest career in the air force (active duty/service) (male)

Longest career in the air force (active duty/service) (male)
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Robert Taylor
51:32 year(s):day(s)
United Kingdom (Lincoln)
11 February 2020

The longest career in the air force (active duty/service) (male) is 51 years 32 days, achieved by Robert Taylor (UK), from 10 January 1969 to 11 February 2020.

Robert (Robbie) was brought up on a council housing estate in Birkenhead, living in a two-bedroom flat alongside two younger siblings. It was there he met a neighbour who ran a radio club which taught basic electronic concepts. Despite an unsuccessful attempt at building a short-wave radio, he learned key electronic theory and skills which would one day shape his life.

While working as a newspaper deliverer, Robbie saw a recruitment advert in the Liverpool Echo from the Royal Air Force (RAF). He decided to apply, thinking he had nothing to lose, and to the surprise of his parents he was accepted aged 15 to aptitude testing. He had originally applied to be a chef (he had been told he made good cakes at home) but excelled in the science and electronic section of the test, due to what he had learnt in the radio club. He was quickly discouraged from being a chef and was offered an Avionics Craft Apprenticeship, specialising in Radar techniques instead.

By the age of 18, he was fully qualified technically and posted from training to RAF Valley, responsible for maintaining the avionics systems in fast jets. In 1983, he converted to an aircrew role for the introduction into service of the Nimrod AEW and AWACS surveillance aircraft. Being involved in worldwide RAF operations and by now, very experienced, Robbie became influential in the technical development of surveillance radar systems and thereafter, aircrew technical conversion training.

After a record-breaking career, Robbie finally retired in February 2020. He chose to remain in the Service for so long “mainly through respect for and genuine commitment to the RAF”, adding “in all respects, I owe the organisation a great debt of gratitude. After all, the RAF has been part of me and me part of it for over 50 years, more than half the time since the RAF was formed in 1918.”

When asked what the most important lessons he learned during his career, he said to “to treat everyone with unwavering respect, kindness and tolerance, regardless of status.

The key advice that I would offer to any young person contemplating a military career is to aim high and follow your dreams. Today's modern armed forces remain the epitome of character-building professionalism combined with excellent training. As such, the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are all highly recommended as future career choices.”

One of Robbie’s career highlights is receiving an MBE from HM The Queen in 1994. As a child, his early aspiration was to be a milkman!

On achieving a Guinness World Records title, Robbie commented: “Throughout my extensive military career, I have received awards, medals and appropriate recognition. All of these accolades and achievements fade from memory with the natural passage of time. By contrast, GWR is a universally renown publication, that accurately captures and documents worldwide achievements from all walks of life in perpetuity. To be a part of that recorded history would indeed be an honour and an immense privilege.”