Becoming Jasper with Squadron Leader Jacqueline Killian
“I want to be an astronaut”
I remember the day my grade 6 teacher asked each student to stand up and tell the class what they wanted to be when they grew up.
“I’m going to be an astronaut,” I said boldly when it was my turn. I’d been in love with the sky and the stars since I was tiny. My bedroom was bursting with books about space and I was desperate to get up there and discover the universe.
But my classmates burst out laughing.
After school I went home and told Mum what had happened. She listened carefully then said matter-of- factly: “Well Squadron Leader Jacqueline Killian, you’ll have to join the Air Force”.
And that was it. From that day onwards, I was going to join the Air Force.
Highs and lows at school
However, it wasn’t as simple as having a dream. I had to work really hard, make sure I studied the right subjects and never stop believing in myself.
Luckily, I really enjoyed physics and maths at school and had a great teacher, Mr Tilly. He was in the army reserves and encouraged me to achieve my dream to fly.
But there were plenty of people who made me question my dream. “Why would you want to be in the Air Force?” they asked. “That’s no place for a girl. Maybe you should be an engineer or a doctor instead...”
Air Combat Officer
I didn’t let those people deter me and, as I did my research for my application to join the Air Force, I came across a position called ‘Air Combat Officer’.
It was a job that meant I could travel around the world flying with a crew, and be in charge of the mission. It sounded exciting and interesting and it’s certainly lived up to my expectations!
I now work on the P-3 Orion which does intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. I’ve travelled to Thailand, Malaysia and the Middle East, and worked providing overwatch to our Army troops on the ground doing patrols. I’ve worked with other aircraft crews from the US, Japan and New Zealand while finding submarines in the ocean... which is a lot harder and more exciting than you’d imagine!
My proudest achievement was the day my crew and I rescued 6 people from drowning near the Papua New Guinean coast.
We were on another mission close to Darwin when we got a call from the operations room on the ground telling us to come back as we were needed for a search and rescue operation.
Six people who were being transported from a small island to a larger one for medical care had gone missing. They had been floating in the ocean for 24 hours holding onto a piece of plastic when we found them. We dropped them a life raft and then guided a large merchant ship to the raft so that they could be picked up and taken safely to shore.
By the end of the rescue, we’d been awake for a whole day and were all exhausted, but it was incredible to know that we saved their lives that day.
As well as an Air Combat Officer, I’m also an Aviation Instructor and mentor which is how I got involved with Jasper.
I never thought that because of my background in sciences and flying I would end up in a sound booth recording lines for an animation!
It was exciting helping develop Jasper and I hope she inspires young girls to think about their futures and to believe that they can be whatever they want to be; whether that’s a pilot, an engineer, an animator or maybe even an astronaut!
Jasper’s reading recommendation:
If you have a dream to be an astronaut like Squadron Leader Jacqueline Killian, you will love the book Ask an astronaut.Tim Peake was the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station, answers everything from ‘How does it feel to orbit the earth 10 times faster than a speeding bullet?’ to ‘What’s it like to eat, sleep and go to the toilet in space?.’
You can see some pics of me as a child in the Jasper magazine.