Tag Archives: tornado

One Of The Oldest Tornados

The Tornado was entering service in big numbers with the RAF at the same time that I was getting seriously into aviation.  I always felt it was the plane I knew the best.  When I ended up working on them, it felt like a continuation of my youthful enthusiasm.  The Tornado GR1 was my jet.  After I moved on to other projects, MLU came along and that became the GR4.  Somehow, the GR4 never felt like it was mine.  I was a GR1 kid.

When I went to the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection at Old Sarum, there was a Tornado at one end of the hangar.  It was a GR1 that had never been updated.  Better than that, is was one of the earliest production jets that the RAF received.  Some of the test jets at Warton were from this batch so this one really felt like one of the originals for me.  The Tornado is long gone from RAF service but, for me, to see one of these earlier jets was really a treat.  Camo with black radomes is how the Tornado should look!

Tornados and a Jag – My Old Handling Buddies

In my days in the aerodynamics department at Warton, I spent time working on the current aircraft handling section.  This included a number of types but the main focus was on jaguar and Tornado work.  When we were walking around the hangars at Duxford, there were examples of both jets on display.  The Tornado was a big part of what I worked on and I had always loved the jet as it was coming in to service at the time I was getting interested in aircraft.  The GR4 version is on display.

The Jaguar had been around a long time when I was getting into planes and the Tornado ended up replacing the Jaguars in the RAF Germany strike role.  The jet continued for a lot longer though and got some decent upgrades late in life.  I had a great time climbing over a jet in the hangar at Warton as we were looking at clearing a new store on the overwing pylon.  A lot of fun!

The Tornados Just Weren’t Playing Ball

I do love the Tornado.  It was coming in to service just when I was getting into aviation and I ended up working on handling clearances for them when I was a junior aerodynamicist.  Their retirement by the RAF was a sad thing for me but I was consoled by the fact they remain in service with the other operators.  I was looking forward to seeing some at RIAT.  I did get to see some flying at a distance on arrivals day and they taxied up our way.  Nothing too close in the air though.

I did get a chance to see them on static display which is fine but not as fun as seeing them flying.  A lot of my hopes, therefore, were focused on departures day.  The German jets were scheduled out at various times during the morning.  However, they weren’t hitting their designated times and I was getting close to needing to leave.  Eventually I realized my time had run out.  I walked back behind the FRIAT stands and popped to the facilities prior to making the drive away.  While in there, I heard a very familiar roar.  Sure enough, as soon as I was out of sight, a Luftwaffe Tornado made its departure.  The Tornado doesn’t climb fast so it was nice and low as it passed the stand – apparently.  Bum!

Farewell RAF Tornado

There will be much online about the retirement of the Tornado from RAF service.  Global Aviation Resource has been putting together some great information on the history of the jet in service and I would recommend you take a look there if you are interested.  I am not going to repeat the information about the history of its service.  However, I do have a history with the jet.  It was entering service just as I was getting very in to aviation.  Then I ended up working on the program undertaking handling clearances for different configurations and clearing urgent changes that were implemented for the first Gulf War.

I figured I would share a few pictures of Tornados.  These are all the IDS version of the jet be they GR1 or GR4.  I haven’t included the ADV jets since they went away a while back.  Some of these shots are scans of old negatives and aren’t the greatest quality but they are part of the early life of the jet.  Some others are more recent.

I will always have a soft spot for the Tornado.  It remains in service in Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia but for the RAF, the service that drove the aircraft to be a more complex jet than the other partners initially wanted, it is now history.

Marineflieger Tornado

Scan 2-1251.jpgTornado was a tri-national program.  The UK, Germany and Italy were the partners that developed and produced the aircraft.  There was only one export customer which was Saudi Arabia.  All of the users continue to operate the aircraft although all of the ADVs have now been withdrawn.  Germany took a substantial number of the jets but, while the Luftwaffe remains a major user, it is easy to forget that they were not alone.

The German Navy had a fast jet fleet.  The Marineflieger operated the F-104 in large numbers and these were replaced by the Tornado.  Originally, they were in the Blue/gray upper fuselage with white undersides colors which looked very neat.  Later on (including the time this photo was taken), they had migrated to a camouflage scheme.  Then, a consolidation exercise took place and the Navy jets were transferred to the Luftwaffe which took over their responsibilities.

Desert Pink Jets (and not jets)

wpid13510-03-0303.jpgMy friend, Ben, put some pictures on Facebook of a Jaguar being restored in Arizona that is being painted in the desert pink colors that were used during the first Gulf War.  I worked a little on Jags in my days at BAe and have always thought it was a cool jet.  It is nice to see one showing up in restoration over here.  It triggered a discussion between a few of us about the colors that were used at that time.

wpid13500-02-0701.jpgIn 1991, I went to Mildenhall for the, then annual, Air Fete.  The Air Fete went away a while back and now it looks like Mildenhall itself will follow into the realms of “once upon a time”.  However, there was a time when the Air Fete was possibly the premier military air show in the UK.  For a while it was a regular feature of my year.  (The weekend before my university finals started was I a) studying hard at college or b) at Mildenhall for the show?  I was studying aeronautical engineering so surely it counted?)

wpid13494-02-0601.jpgThis was the first big show after the end of the war in the gulf and a lot of the aircraft that were on display were pretty much unchanged.  This included the desert colors that had been applied in a hurry along with mission markings and less official images that the crews had painted.  One of the Tornados on display showed how quickly things had been done.  They had painted the jet with the flight refueling probe still attached which, when removed, left a grey patch amongst the pink on the front fuselage.

wpid13502-02-0801.jpgNot everything was pink.  The tankers that went over had already adopted a hemp color in the previous years so they were already quite well prepared.  Also, a Chinook was on display that had a mottled finish that was supposedly the result of being used for special forces missions.

wpid13508-03-0302.jpgNeedless to say, most of these colors were pretty quickly removed as the aircraft where cleaned up after their return and put through some deeper maintenance and the rapid war modifications either removed or upgraded to a clear condition.  (Lots of mods were done under a “war only” approval.  They were less likely to kill you then the opposition but hadn’t gone through the full clearance process.  They weren’t approved for peacetime use until a more thorough evaluation had been done.  Of course, we had a fair bit of testing experience to do the clearances with given how much they had flown in theater!)

wpid13498-02-0604.jpgThe pictures are scanned from old negatives so not fantastic but they are a snapshot of an interesting time!

wpid13496-02-0602.jpg wpid13504-02-0802.jpg

Bye Bye ADVs

In 1993 I was working at BAe’s plant in Warton when we had a special event.  It was the last delivery of a Tornado to the RAF and the aircraft was AT051, a twin stick ADV (or F3 in RAF parlance).  We all received a print of a painting of the aircraft to celebrate the event and trooped out to watch the aircraft depart.  I don’t have pictures of that since cameras were not permitted inside the security perimeter at Warton.

It therefore feels slightly more personal to read all of the information online about the demise of the RAF’s ADV fleet.  They have been on the way out for quite a while but the end has finally come.  Since I made it across to RIAT last year, I did get some final shots of the remaining aircraft and I am glad that I did.  My transition to digital shooting coincided with my move to the US so I don’t have many ADV shots that aren’t on film and I certainly didn’t shoot as many shots before going digital.

I only have a limited number of shots which amazes me given how often I saw ADVs over the years.  I guess when they were common I didn’t make much effort to shoot them when film was something I treated as precious.



So here are a few mementos and good bye to a plane I liked working on.