Paul McDonald is a former RAF fast-jet pilot whose flying career spanned 34 years. He is not a typical senior RAF officer having been brought up on a council estate in a bleak northern industrial town. He became a pilot by accident and struggled to gain his wings. He spent 14 years on operational tours overseas including 2 tours at the height of the Cold War on a Tornado tactical nuclear squadron in Germany, only 15 minutes from responding to an anticipated Soviet onslaught. Earlier he served on a low-level photo reconnaissance squadron on NATO's vulnerable southern flank. He was decorated for gallantry in 1980 and later served in Kuwait as the Senior RAF Adviser, including Operation Desert Fox, the air war against Iraq in 1998.