Red Arrows pilot turns to writing

Author Justin Hughes
Author Justin Hughes

A Wigan-born fighter pilot-turned-businessman who flew in the world famous Red Arrows has written a book sharing his tips for success.

Justin Hughes, who spent three years in the iconic display team, has penned The Business of Excellence about high-performance teams in the world of work.

Justin Hughes during his time in the Red Arrows

Justin Hughes during his time in the Red Arrows

Justin, who was born in Billinge Hospital and lived in the borough until he was eight, wrote the book sharing his experiences in the military and running his own consultancy and training firm Mission Excellence.

The author, who now divides his time between Poole in Dorset and London, spoke about his motivation to put down on paper the things he learned from his time flying one of the world’s best-known aircraft and his business working with high-profile clients including the Mercedes Formula One team.

The 49-year-old said: “The book just evolved as an opportunity to put in one place all the experiences from over 25 years. I would do events and quite often I would be asked if I had a book. One thing just led to another, I had a meeting with a publisher and got a contract so then I was committed.

“The Red Arrows was wonderful and obviously a privilege. One of the best things is that you go flying almost every day and that’s not true as a fighter pilot. There’s never a business as usual day and because you immediately debrief you get instant feedback. It’s a really rewarding way to work.

The Red Arrows was wonderful and obviously a privilege.

Justin Hughes

“There were quite a few highlights of my three years there. We did displays in Toronto but getting to Canada was almost as interesting because the jets only have a range of about 800 miles so we had to go across the North Atlantic stopping in Iceland and Greenland. We also did a fly-past with Concorde for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

“It’s a weird thing, though, because at the time you are just trying to stay in position, but then you look at the TV and see the thousands of people all along Pall Mall watching. I’ve actually been running the business as long as I was in the RAF. I didn’t really plan to leave, I knew I wasn’t going to stay until I was 50 and I thought I could go out on a high from the Red Arrows.”

Justin was in the army a year but then went to Bristol University to study physics before joining the RAF. He originally built Mission Excellence around the things he had learned in the military and branched out into speaking at conferences about high performance and running team-building events.

The book, which explains how the corporate world can achieve more and become more effective, has been praised by high-profile institutions such as the London Business School and UK Training and Investment as well as the Master of the Queen’s Household.

Justin says he is now thinking about writing a second book at some point about the concept of risk, after realising that what is instilled into recruits in the RAF as normal practice is something many organisations in business actually find extremely difficult.

He said: “As a pilot that was just how we did business, that was the organisation’s culture. We worked in a fast-moving, complex environment that was often ambiguous and we made decisions on the basis that being approximately right was better than being precisely wrong.

“I didn’t realise the relevance of that and how many people and organisations would find that helpful. If I write another book it will be that sort of subject.”

The Business of Excellence is out now on Amazon.