Royal International Air Tattoo
Refuelling at 20,000 feet
Filling Up at 20,000 feet
By Andrew Vincent
BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Andrew Vincent got a rare chance to fly with an RAF refuelling mission off the Scottish coast...
One of the themes of this year's Royal International Air Tattoo is Skytanker '08 – a tribute to the unsung crews who keep the glamour boys and girls in the fast jets flying.
Andrew Vincent on board the VC10
I was lucky enough to fly with 101 Squadron from RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, on a refuelling mission over the far north of Scotland in a VC10.
We rendezvoused with 11 Tornado fighters 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) over Stornoway. It was an impressive sight seeing those £40 million jets just 20 feet off our wing.
In a feat of precision flying, at around 300 miles an hour, each jet edged forward before making the gentlest of connections with our refuelling hose. Each pilot stayed hooked up for up to 15 minutes taking on up to 4,000 kilograms of fuel.
A tricky manoeuvre!
Just to prove how difficult it is, one Tornado had to return to base after hitting our line too hard. His flight commander ordered him home as a precaution in case he had ingested a piece of our fuel line into his engine.
This was our crew's third trip of the day; they had already refuelled French Mirage fighters over Iceland, more Tornados over the North Sea before this sortie to Scotland.
So Skytanker '08 will be a rare opportunity for the petrol-stations-in-the-sky to take a bow in the spotlight at RAF Fairford on July 12th and 13th.
last updated: 11/07/2008 at 15:58