Sir Stephen Hillier GCB CBE DFC MA

Sir Stephen Hillier

Honorary Professor

Contact details

School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Sir Stephen Hillier has, since 1 August 2020, been the Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK’s independent aviation and space regulator, responsible for the safety, security and consumer interests of those who fly, and those affected on the ground below.  He is also Chair and Board member of a number of other organisations, including various charities.

Previously, he had a long career in the Royal Air Force, culminating as the Chief of the Air Staff (the head of the RAF) from July 2016 to July 2019.  In that role, he led a Whole Force of some 35,000 Regular and Reserve personnel and nearly 5,000 Civil Servants, supported by thousands of contractors.  He was personally accountable for the safe and effective operation of over 700 crewed and uncrewed aircraft and for meeting the air and space power needs of Defence on operations world-wide.

Prior to becoming Chief of the Air Staff, he was the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability) in the Ministry of Defence between 2012 and 2016, responsible for strategic force design, balance of investment and capability coherence across all areas of UK joint military capability. He has significant other previous experience in MOD capability planning, acquisition and programme delivery.

A Tornado GR4 pilot and flying instructor, he has over 3,500 flying hours and extensive operational and command experience, ranging from squadron pilot to theatre commander of British Forces.

He received his knighthood (KCB) in 2014 and was appointed GCB in 2020.  He received his CBE in 2004 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for operations over Iraq in 1999, the United States Bronze Star for Iraq operations in 2003, and the United States Legion of Merit and the Gold Cross of the Bundeswehr in 2019.

Sir Stephen reluctantly describes himself as a former long-distance runner, frustrated by injury. Instead he now relaxes by road biking, photography, hill-walking and reading, especially on social history.


  • Honorary Professor University of Birmingham, 2021
  • Master of Arts (Defence Studies), King’s College, 1999
  • Bachelor of Arts (Social Sciences), Open University, 1998

Other activities

  • Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority
  • Chair of Convivia Ltd
  • Chair of British Legend Ltd
  • President of Forces Pension Society
  • Vice-President of RAF Benevolent Fund
  • Trustee of Veterans’ Aid
  • Patron of Baird of Bute Society
  • Patron of Skylab