Thursday 28th,February was a mixed emotional day as we say goodbye to an RAF legend, the Tornado.
The Tornado had served the RAFs needs for 37 years, it has been involved in conflicts around the globe, Gulf war, Bosnia and most recently, Syria against IS insurgent’s. It has had many upgrades in it’s life from GR-1 to GR-4 standard, mainly weapon and Avionics fit.
For me I remember seeing for the first time the Tornado in 1978 as a prototype at the Farnborough International, air show, then called the Multi Role Combat Aircraft, (MRCA) in collaboration with the UK,Germany and Italy so it is just over 40 years.
I arrived at RAF Marham shortly before 10-00am to find the farmers field had already been packed out , so it was a short drive to White road, which happens to be at the end of the runway, 01, I managed to get parked there and had a 15min walk to the field where every body was waiting for the time of the departure of the 11 Tornado aircraft to taxi out for possibly the last time and do a series of flypast to mark the end of its type in service with the Royal Air Force, (RAF).
I must admit the amount of people that were there to witness such a spectacle, I thought I was at a major air show, I wonder how many of such folk were taking a sick day. So the time came, 14-00hrs pm, all 11 aircraft came out of their HAS site area and started taxing towards the waiting crowd and photographers amongst us, for some crew members its possibly their last flight on this type .
With the leaden skies and 11 Tornadoes taken off one after another the dancing diamond effects from the afterburner stood out well. All the aircraft were out for approximately 75mins doing their 9 ship flypast over RAF Cranwell, two of which were air spares, just in case, before returning to Marham to do a couple of 9 ship flypast as well as a roll demo before they all landed back and performed a Elephant walk along the runway for the waiting media present on base, before taxing back past the waiting crowd for the last time.
A great time was had by all, even the Marham Station Commander, Group Captain Ian Townsend came out to visit the waiting crowds, along side his media team to keep all of us informed of what was going on, a nice jesture, thank you. though the weather did not play ball, but for those of us that were there it will be a day never to forget and it also gave a last chance to see this iconic fighter before she retires.