One thing leads to another. After publication of Storm Front, I received a letter from a pilot I’d mentioned in the book, but not spoken to. He was kind enough to say how much he’d enjoyed it, then went on to provide detail of operations he was involved with that followed the conclusion of the story I told. He also included the bare bones of his career following his secondment to the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force. Much of it caught my eye.
We met and spoke at the weekend.
He told me about flying the RAF’s first Jaguars and getting the avionics working long enough to win the annual tactical bombing competition against other RAF squadrons and USAF A-7 Corsairs. He described how he’d been mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records after setting a new Edinburgh to London record. His time as a test pilot at Boscombe Down during the Falklands was fascinating. During his time there he flew engine slam trials in a Tornado F2 that took him to 812 knots or Mach 1.3 just 120 feet above the sea. The low-level world air speed record, held by Daryl Greenamyer flying a F-104 Starfighter is only 60mph faster. Had anyone been inclined to try, is it possible that the Tornado ADV might have been able to claim the record for itself? A tantalising prospect, and one which would have earned an aircraft that often attracted negative criticism some grudging respect.
Still with Tornado, he told me about the urgency with which the Tornado GR1 was cleared to refuel from a Buccaneer in case the combination might have something to contribute to the war in the South Atlantic. And that wasn’t even the most interesting Tornado proposal of the war.
But it was the last aircraft he flew before leaving the RAF in 1984 that was of most interest to me. There aren’t many British aviators who got their hands on a late model MiG-21 at the height of the Cold War. Fewer still who did so while still a serving RAF officer. I look forward to being able to write up the story properly.