Dr Gus Cabre interview: The RAF GP

Wing Commander Dr Gus Cabre tells Olivia Blair about the pleasures of flying to work.

Dr Cabre's work as a GP in the RAF includes search and rescue missions (Author image)
Dr Cabre's work as a GP in the RAF includes search and rescue missions (Author image)

'Tense excitement' is how Dr Gus Cabre describes his job as a GP in the RAF. He was first prompted to apply for the position after discovering that the force was keen to employ doctors who could also fly planes.

Almost 18 years ago, Dr Cabre was given a trial flying lesson as a gift. As soon as the plane left the ground, he was hooked and signed up for more.

Dr Cabre flies for fun at least two or three times a month, mostly enjoying the scenic views over East Anglia. 'You just take off and quickly you're high up in the air, the feeling is amazing,' he says.

Arguably a more daring aspect of flying, which Dr Cabre also enjoys, is 'the challenge of bad weather'.

His decision to join the RAF came as he became increasingly 'fed up' with the NHS. 'I wanted to leave medicine altogether,' he says.

Dr Cabre was a plastic surgeon during his time with the NHS, but the RAF did not need plastic surgeons when he joined, so he switched to general practice.

'As a GP in the RAF, you have a range of jobs, such as occupational therapy, search and rescue, and going to the battlefields to pick up injured army personnel and fly them back to the UK.'

The job involves a lot of travelling, which has included one tour of Afghanistan. Dr Cabre has also been to Iraq, Central Africa, India and 'every country of the Arabian peninsula apart from Yemen'.

Teaching role

Dr Cabre also teaches aviation medicine to fellow RAF personnel, as well as medical students.

Aviation medicine focuses on what can happen to the body when up in the air – for example, conditions like spatial disorientation are studied. Pathology and psychology are also covered, Dr Cabre says: 'I teach about which diseases can make flying incompatible; for example, diseases that could be exacerbated by flying or that could affect flying abilities.'

Dr Cabre also uses his favourite hobby to commute to meetings at various RAF bases. 'I commute by plane whenever I can, it's much easier. I could either drive to a meeting in three-and-a-half hours, or fly there in 45 minutes.'

Dr Cabre has maximised his opportunities for flying for pleasure with his work for the RAF Flying Clubs' Association, which he describes as the 'social side of the air force'.

Association members fly to many events, including last year's 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Other destinations have included Berlin and Majorca.

This year, Dr Cabre plans to obtain his commercial pilot's licence, so he can become a flying instructor, which he would like to do part-time when he eventually retires.

Dr Cabre's airplanes

The Piper Warrior, one of the aircraft Dr Cabre flies for fun (Graham Reeve) 

'The planes I fly for fun are single engine,' says Dr Cabre. These include Pipers, Cessnas and the Beech Sierra. Until a year ago, he was flying his own aircraft (G-CDMA, a Piper Warrior, pictured above).

The aircraft instruments allow pilots to fly in bad weather, in cloudy conditions and at night. Dr Cabre normally flies from RAF Honington or RAF Marham. In the military, he has flown training aircraft (Grob Tutor), transport aircraft (Hercules, VC10, TriStar) and jets (Hawk, Jaguar, Tornado F3 and the Eurofighter Typhoon).

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