Norfolk

RAF head in Tornado tribute after series of flypasts

Sir Stephen Hillier Image copyright Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Image caption Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier in the cockpit of a Tornado at RAF Marham in Norfolk

The head of the RAF has said the Tornado "delivered so well" after a series of flypasts to mark the jet's retirement ended.

The aircraft was flown over many of the country's RAF bases across three days before it leaves active service at the end of March.

The jet, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, has been in the RAF since 1979 and in combat since the first Gulf War.

Sir Stephen Hillier was "emotional" after his final flight on Thursday.

The 56-year-old, who first flew the Tornado when he was 24, piloted the jet from its home base, flying over RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland before returning to Marham.

After stepping out of the aircraft there were handshakes with colleagues, glasses of champagne and he was soaked by the base's firefighters in an RAF tradition.

Image copyright Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Image caption Sir Stephen Hillier enjoyed champagne with colleagues after his final flight
Image copyright Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Image caption Sir Stephen Hillier (right), RAF Marham station commander Group Captain Ian "Cab" Townsend and Squadron Leader Chris Whitehair (left) are given a traditional soaking by fire crew after completing their final flights

Sir Stephen said: "It's been tremendous fun, a tremendous opportunity but what an aircraft.

"It's delivered so well on operations around the world for the Royal Air Force and indeed for the nation."

The weapons capabilities of the Tornados are now being delivered by RAF Typhoon jets, which will form the "backbone" of the UK's combat air fleet, the RAF said, alongside a new fleet of F-35 Lighting jets.

Sir Stephen said there would be no gap in the RAF's capabilities when Tornados leave service, adding: "I'm absolutely confident we can do what we need to do."

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