Air Vice-Marshal P A Atherton OBE RAF
President of the 216 Squadron Association
Air Vice-Marshal Paul Atherton was born in County Durham and joined the Royal Air Force in 1982. Following Initial Officer Training and pilot training on the Jet Provost and Jetstream, he was posted to No 10 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton where he operated the VC10 aircraft in the Air Transport and Air Refuelling roles. He completed tours as a co-pilot, captain and flight commander, undertaking VIP and training duties and was actively involved in operations during both the Gulf War and the conflict in the Balkans. Atherton then undertook a policy appointment in HQ No 2 Group before being selected for the final RAF Staff Course at Bracknell in 1996. Thereafter, he was posted to the Ministry of Defence and an appointment within the Directorate of Joint Warfare as a strategic exercise planner. He was promoted in situ to Wing Commander and his responsibilities changed to taking forward the wide-ranging joint initiatives resulting from the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. In 1999, he returned to RAF Brize Norton as Officer Commanding No 216 Sqn flying the TriStar aircraft. During his time in command, he and his Sqn operated from deployed locations in Italy , Oman and Bahrain in support of operations over Kosovo , Afghanistan and Southern Iraq . Following the events of 9/11, he was the UK Tanker Commander in Seeb , Oman as part of the UK 's air-refuelling contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom. On completion of this tour, he was promoted to Group Captain and was appointed the senior military member of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme at the Defence Procurement Agency. He departed this post in November 2004 to command Basrah Air Station in Iraq for 6 months, for which he was awarded the OBE, prior to assuming command of RAF Lyneham and the UK Hercules Force where he flew both the C-130 K and J models. He attended both the Higher Command and Staff Course and the Royal College of Defence Studies throughout 2008 prior to promotion to Air Commodore and an appointment as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Strategy, Policy and Plans at HQ AIR. He is married to Jane, they have 2 teenage daughters, and a home in West Oxfordshire . His interests include the countryside, cooking and gardening. An ex Combined Services and RAF cricketer he also has a passionate interest in all sports.