FOR the last 50 years, patching up the iconic Hercules aircraft has been a man’s world.

But now Sergeant Sophie Hobson, 35, who is based at RAF Brize Norton, has become the first female ground engineer (GE) to work on the aircraft.

The role will see her fly out on deployments with the Hercules crew and manage the plane’s airworthiness maintenance.

Sgt Hobson completed her first solo flight, to Budapest, as part of a training exercise for pilots last month.

She said: “It was quite nerve-racking, but you know you have had the training and experience to be able to deal with it.”

Sgt Hobson, who is from Gosforth in the Lake District, joined the RAF in 1996 as a technician aged 18, after completing a BTEC in engineering, . She said: “It started when I joined the Scouts at a young age and our Scout hut used to get invaded by the RAF mountain rescue team.

“I got chatting to them and it just seemed a really good lifestyle to me.”

Sgt Hobson was first posted to RAF Leuchars in Scotland as a technician, servicing planes before and after missions.

She was later posted to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, repairing broken aircraft equipment. In 2010, she worked with ground engineers during a four-month detachment to Al Udeid, a military base in Qatar, and decided she wanted to take on the role.

She was posted to 33 (Engineer) Squadron, based at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, later that year to gain first-hand experience of the Hercules aircraft.

A year later, she learned her application had been successful and she began training to become a ground engineer, which involved six months in a classroom and six months’ flying training.

She qualified in May and joined the team of about 50 ground engineers based at RAF Brize Norton.

Asked how she felt as the first woman ground engineer working on Hercules she said: “I don’t really make a big deal of it to be honest.

“But I have never let being female stop me from doing anything, and being the first was certainly not going to faze me.”