During an Easter camp at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, I was selected as the best cadet of the camp. The reward for this was a flight in a Tucano T1, which is the RAF's two seated basic flying training aircraft.
On the morning of the flight I had to go for a medical examination to check whether or not I was fit to fly. The medical consisted of things like blood pressure tests, various questions and body measurements, and with myself being only a tiny 5"4 I only just scraped through that one! However I did have to spend the whole morning drinking gallons of water to make sure I was able to "perform" for the urine test, very nice indeed! After the medical it was off to the clothing stores to pick up my flying suit and everything else I needed for the flight. And the embarrassment wasn't over yet. I had to have the smallest size in every item they issued me, boots, suit, shirt, gloves and then to my utter horror I was told I would have to wear long johns. Men's long johns. But at the end of the day I was getting the chance of a lifetime. Flying clothing stores supplied me with a lifejacket, helmet and an oxygen mask, I looked awesome!!
Once I was all kitted up I was taken over to No. 207 Squadron and I was introduced to my pilot, Flt Lt Mark Wharry, a flying instructor fresh of the Hawks at RAF Valley in North Wales . By the way, for anyone who has seen the brief for the Tutor or the Vigilant, if you think that's boring you should sit through the Tucano brief! The video was a bit longer and slightly scarier though as the ejection seat made me want to suddenly realise I'd left the oven on! After various briefs and introductions I was allowed to go and change into my long johns and all the rest of my new kit and returned looking like something out of top gun.
This is where the fun starts. I was all geared up and ready to go, walking out to the aircraft wondering if I should have gone to the toilet before I left. After numerous photos and posings I was allowed (finally) to get into the cockpit, I took the back seat. After being strapped in and numerous take off checks I waved goodbye to my C.O and Plt Off Easterlow and held on for dear life as we took off.
After the initial scare and nerves calmed down it was the most fun I have ever had in my life. The pilot was great and showed me all of the surrounding areas. Going at nearly 300mph at only 250ft is absolutely awesome! I did bang my head on the sides of the canopy during the sharp turns a few times but there was nothing that could have taken the smile off my face, even pulling 5.5G and 11,000 ft I managed to squeeze a cheesy grin out, however I did have to hold my oxygen mask up as it was weighing my face down!! The weird thing was that because we were so high and had clouds above and below us, you can't see the ground and doing one aerobatic manoeuvre after another kind of makes it hard to figure out which way up you are. But nevertheless I wasn't sick, I didn't even feel bad, but I was a bit hungry seeing as I'd been rushing around all day and only had time to munch half a packet of crisps!!
After he'd shown me what the aircraft could do, the pilot decided I should have a go myself, and it was awesome. I did a few aerobatics and begged to go down to 250ft again so that I could wave to farmers, having said that none of them looked best impressed with me, how rude!! It was coming towards the end of the flight so we headed back into the circuit. After showing off his skills, the pilot decided to let me have a go at getting back down to the ground, and this is where I got scared. But I'm not the type to turn down a challenge so I said lets go for it. I have to say it wasn't something you'd see on top gun but it was on the ground at least, and what's more, in one piece.
Unfortunately the flight was over, but the grin was still there and so were the red lines from the oxygen mask (for about 2 days)!!! I thanked the pilot and all of the staff and returned my kit. Still on a high, I proceeded to tell all of the camp staff about it, my mum, all other the cadets and all my friends. In about half an hour, and I either didn't make much sense or bored everyone to death with my story. But on a final note I just want to thank the camp staff and all of the service personnel who made it happen. It was AWESOME!!!
One of the busiest training airfields in the RAF, Linton-on-Ouse has been used as a Bomber, Transport and Fighter airfield in its long and interesting history since it opened in 1937. Since 1957 the main role of the Station has been pilot training, initially with the Jet Provost, but now with the Tucano T1. No 1 Flying Training School operates 78 Tucano T1s, providing basic flying instruction. No 642 Volunteer Gliding School, equipped with Vigilant T1s is also based at Linton.
No. 207 (Reserve) Squadron
In July 2002 No 1 Flying Training School divided its strength between two new reserve Squadrons, one of which was No 207, reformed as 207(Reserve) Squadron operating the Tucano T1 at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.