Squadrons look on as RAF Tornado completes final flight

The RAF Tornado has completed its final flight in a flypast over the disbandment parade for the jet’s last two squadrons.

The Tornado will retire at the end of this month after almost four decades in service.

Members of the last two squadrons to operate the aircraft attended the parade in a hangar at the jet’s home base of RAF Marham in Norfolk on Thursday.

A final flypast of a single Tornado aircraft over RAF Marham
A final flypast of the Tornado aircraft over RAF Marham (Joe Giddens/PA)

Guests then moved outside to see the single jet roar overhead in a low flypast.

Squadron leader Ian Dornan, the pilot for the Tornado’s final flight, described it as an “absolute honour and a privilege”.

“It’s really when I think about all the aircrew that have gone before me and all the engineers that have made it possible to put the jet in the air,” he said.

“It’s sometimes sad as well as I’ve a few friends who didn’t make it back, but very humbling and very honoured to fly the last mission.”

RAF personnel look to the skies as the Tornado flies overhead
RAF personnel look to the skies as the Tornado flies overhead (Joe Giddens/PA)

Squadron leader Stephen Beardmore, who was in the back seat as navigator, said: “It’s been a long career for me flying Tornado and it’s kind of like a pair of old slippers.

“I think I just got used to it and it’s been very fulfilling.

“It’s a sad day to move on but I think it’s time to move on.

“The aircraft has now come to the end of its service life and there are newer things to do and newer capabilities to service with newer aircraft.”

Squadron leaders Stephen Beardmore, left, and Ian Dornan
Squadron leaders Stephen Beardmore, left, and Ian Dornan (Joe Giddens/PA)

The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, watched the jet taxi in for the last time and said it was a “hugely significant moment in the RAF’s history”.

He added: “It’s hugely emotional.

“The Tornado has been the greatest part of my RAF career and so if my eyes are just a little bit glassy it’s not just down to the wind that’s blowing today here at Marham.”

Station Commander Group Captain Ian “Cab” Townsend said: “I think the wave of emotion when those two engines shut down from the last sortie tells you everything you need to know.”

A Tornado aircraft over RAF Marham
The Tornado aircraft over RAF Marham (Joe Giddens/PA)

The two squadrons at the disbandment parade were 9 Squadron and 31 Squadron.

The world’s first operational Tornado squadron, 9 Squadron, had operated the aircraft since 1982. It will be stood up again as a Typhoon squadron at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

31 Squadron, known as the Goldstars, operated the Tornado since 1984. It is set to be stood up again to operate Protector drones.

The duties of the Tornado, which was originally used in combat during the first Gulf War, will be taken over by Typhoon jets with newly-fitted weapons systems.

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