Heather Ratnage-Black has represented the Royal Air Force and also Great Britain in the sport of skeleton bobsleigh. She currently serves on the board of British Bobsleigh & Skeleton.
Ratnage-Black is a northerner; she grew up in Norton-on-Tees, a few miles north-east of Middlesbrough. She was educated at Bede College in Billingham, before studying geography at St David’s University College, Lampeter. Already a sports junkie, her interests at university included mountain biking.
On leaving full-time education, Ratnage-Black entered the Royal Air Force. In 2001, she did her novice course in skeleton bobsleigh with the army in Igls, Austria. In skeleton, participants or ‘sliders’ sprint between 20 and 30 metres while pushing a sled. They then jump on to descend a constructed ice-covered track or channel at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour. In contrast to the related sport of luge, they compete lying chest down and head-first. Skeleton was to become a major part of Ratnage-Black’s life. For the next ten years she was involved in the RAF’s team, first as a competing athlete, then as team manager. In the latter role, she was responsible for athlete development, European race coordination, coach progression and all aspects of safety. She eventually became the chairman of UK Armed Forces Skeleton. She is the event director for the UK Armed Forces annual Inter Service Ice Sports Championships, which includes bobsleigh, luge and skeleton. As a member of its board, she is now on the national governing body of British Bobsleigh & Skeleton. Her fellow members include double Winter Olympic gold medallist, Lizzie Yarnold.
Alongside this, Ratnage-Black was building an air force career. Between 2003 and 2007, she worked as flight commander, air operations at RAF Marham in Norfolk. After that she became Squadron Operations Officer, before spending some time in planning roles. Since 2010, she has worked at RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire. Initially she was involved in ISTAR, the RAF’s eyes and ears in the sky. She was particularly involved in the governance and assurance of safety management systems. Then, in 2013, she became Assurance, Safety and Continuous Improvement Manager at the Air Warfare Centre. The Air Warfare Centre provides integrated mission support to front line commanders.
Ratnage-Black has twice served in the airbase stationed at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. In 2008 and 2009, she spent five months as Base Operations Officer for the NATO mission. In 2012, she worked as Squadron Leader Operations of No. 904 Expeditionary Air Wing. Her duties included managing the flight operations room, flight safety reporting, force protection planning and contingency planning. She has been awarded the prestigious Chief of the Air Staff’s Commendation.
Alongside the pressures of airforce life, Ratnage-Black continued to study. Her second degree, taken through the Open University, was a BA in Childhood and Youth. After that, she took an OU diploma in Religious Studies. She is still an active sportswoman. She is a black belt in kick boxing and regularly runs in long distance races, including ultra marathons. These have included taking part in the Saint Cuthbert’s Way 100 km event, starting in Melrose and ending in Lindisfarne. More recently she ran the 35 miles from her home in Boston to Lincoln Castle to raise funds for Autism Aware UK. As well as supporting her own children’s supporting endeavours, Ratnage-Black has coached Lincoln Rugby Club’s under sevens team for the past ten years.
British Bobsleigh & Skeleton (n.d.). Heather Ratnage-Black Board Member. Retrieved October 21 2020 from https://www.thebbsa.co.uk/the-bbsa/board/directory/heather-ratnage-black
Ratnage-Black, H. (2020) Heather Ratnage-Black. Assurance, safety and continuous improvement manager at Royal Air Force. [LinkedIn page]. LinkedIn. Retrieved October 21 2020 from https://www.linkedin.com/in/familyrats/
Tomlinson, A. (2010). tobogganing, skeleton. In A Dictionary of Sports Studies. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 21 Oct. 2020, from https://www-oxfordreference-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/view/10.1093/acref/9780199213818.001.0001/acref-9780199213818-e-1131.
Royal Air Force. (2020). RAF Waddington. Retrieved October 21 2020 from https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/stations/raf-waddington/
NewSliders.com (2010). Retrieved October232020 from http://www.newsliders.com/