President taken for a ride!

July 17th 2008 is a date that our President, AVM Collins, will remember for a very long time. He was privileged to have a flight in an XI Sqn Typhoon and describes his experience.

"I arrived at Coningsby on 16 July and was met by Flt Lt Joe Litten, recently posted in as Intelligence Officer for the squadron. He was assigned to look after me and the squadron had even arranged a service car with 2-star plates as I was visiting in uniform. I had to undergo a medical examination (which I passed of course) and then get fitted with the full array of flying clothing which is necessary these days - that took about 2 hours in the morning of 17 July and my flight was scheduled for 1430 with Sqn Ldr Jim Haskins as captain."

Take-off in cold power felt very similar to the Lightning and the rate of climb was even more spectacular. Weather at Coningsby was low cloud and rain so we cruised down to the south-west at about 0.9 mach and let down over Yeovilton. from there we descended to 2000ft over the Brtistol Channel where Jim demonstrated a full burner acceleration from 200 to 650 kts. this gave me an almighty kick in the back and took about 8 seconds! After that we climbed back up to medium altitude and Jim transferred control to me for a few aeros and general handling. With the fly-by-wire system only one pilot can operate the controls so jim had to sit there while I did a few rolling manoeuvres and high g turns (I was limited to 5g by my clearance but that was quite enough for me at my age!). Jim then flew a burner loop which was quite exciting and proved that you could enter at low speed, get round successfully and still gain height on the exit! We recovered back at Coningsby with a full PAR descent and landed after 1 hr 20 mins flight.

It was a tremendous experience and a great privilege at the age of 78 and some 24 years after I had last flown the Lightning. Like the Lightning, the Typhoon seemed to me to be a real pilot's aeroplane and not all that difficult to fly. But there have been  massive changes  in the avionics and situation awareness potential which make operating it in military terms a very demanding process involving a very different set of skills from the equally demanding ones needed to operate the Lightning.  The Typhoon is a truly magnificent aircraft and the pilots who operate it are worthy successors to those of my time who flew the Lightning. We can feel very proud of today's XI Squadron."

AVM Peter Collins CB AFC BA RAF(Retd)
July 26th 2008

All photos ©Crown Copyright/SAC Mark Dixon