Flying high: Rocío González Torres and the Breitling Aviation Pioneers Squad

Brummell chats to Spanish Air Force commandant Rocío González Torres about the qualities you need to become a successful jet pilot

Watches & Jewellery 20 Jul 2020

Rocío González Torres

The Breitling Aviation Pioneers Squad is one of the brand’s special squads – groups of three remarkable people operating in a given field who are brought together to represent the dynamic spirit of the firm’s watches. There is also an Explorers Squad, Triathlon Squad, Cinema Squad and Surfers Squad, but it is arguably the Aviation Pioneers Squad that is the most natural fit for this brand, which, since its foundation in 1884, has built a reputation for making precision timepieces for aircraft and those that fly them.

The three members of the Aviation Pioneers Squad each represent different airborne disciplines. Scott Kelly is an American astronaut who piloted the Space Shuttle and then commanded the International Space Station for three expeditions, including one that was a year long. Luke Bannister, on the other hand, is much more Earthbound – a British champion drone pilot who won his first World Drone Championship at the age of 15.

The trio is made up by Commandant Rocío González Torres, the first Spanish woman to log 1,000 hours at the controls of an F-18 fighter jet. Rocío finished top of her class in her initial military pilot training and also at the fighter and attack pilot academy, becoming the first woman to reach the number one spot in that discipline. While maintaining her schedule in the Spanish Air Force, she also completed an MA in Aviation and Airport Management, and also found time to pursue her love of motorcycling, playing the piano, and sport. She has been national champion in fencing and the aeronautical pentathlon on several occasions. Rocío says that piloting jets appealed to her from an early age: ‘I love the fact that it’s sporty, risky, adventurous, serious, and disciplined. And I hope that girls and young women will be inspired and encouraged to follow their dreams and take unexplored paths.’

Hello Rocío. Are you the first female jet pilot in Spain?

I am not the first, I am the second one. But, I am the first who gets the top grades and Top Guns. And I am the first in getting 1,000 hours in a jet as a woman.

When did you qualify as a jet pilot?

I become a jet pilot in 2008.

Why do you think it has taken so long for women to come into this field?

I really think it’s a matter of education, coming from the ground, because women don’t think about being in the military. It is not in the culture. If she doesn’t have a family tie, she doesn’t think about it. This is not our future – for women. Maybe now that we are going to schools to talk about women in the military, maybe they now can start to think about a possible future for women there. The girls in the school are really interested!

Why did you want to become a pilot?

I really don’t know why but when I was 13, I decided I wanted to be part of the military, and when I started to study how to do that, I saw that there was a difference between the army, the navy and air force. I said, ‘OK then. The air force is fine.’ Once I was inside the academy, I saw the jets flying over there, and I decided to at least try to become a pilot.

What do you think the qualities are that you need to be a good jet pilot?

You need discipline. Yes, it’s very important. You need to have coordination, which is also very important to fly a jet. Of course, very [quick] mental activity, so to speak. Maybe one of the most important is the capacity of making decisions. To be able to make decisions very quickly because the plane flies very fast.

Do you have to become able to deal with stress?

Yes, of course, missions are very stressful. You should be able to deal with that stress, because if not, you’re going to be paralysed and [able to do] nothing at all, and that mission will be failing. So, all these skills you will obtain by training. You should have a base of these qualities, but you can train all of them, as well as leadership, teamwork. You can learn how to work.

Rocío González Torres

Do you have a mission to inspire others?

I hope to inspire women because there are very few women here. In Spain, we have only five women flying jets. I think we have a problem, because women don’t even think about being pilots. I hope to be inspirational. In the future, maybe we can see more women.

Tell us what it’s like to fly in an aerobatics team.

We’re in the briefing room, sitting around the table and we’ll talk about the mission. We will think about the mission, very concentrated, saying the same words to everyone. It’s very important for us to be focused and concentrated first. If not, you’re not going to do it properly. You are not going to be where you should be at the time that you should be. And if you don’t do that, maybe you have consequences sometimes. So you have to do it because if not, it will affect your partner[s] and the entire mission.

Finally, how do you feel being part of a Breitling Squad?

For me, it is really hard to express the pleasure. To partner with such a wonderful brand… For me it is really important and I am really happy to be with Breitling.