28 Royal Air Force aircraft soared over Buckingham Palace, central London, today in an impressive finale to Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday celebrations.
13 types of RAF aircraft, including helicopters, Typhoon fighter jets, World War II Spitfires, the RAF’s latest and largest transport aircraft Voyager and the famous Red Arrows, took part in the traditional flypast.
The formation over the Palace at 13:00BST was divided into six ‘elements’, each 30 seconds apart and representing the RAF’s varied roles, as well as its history – with a nod to the recent D-Day 70th Anniversary by the Lancaster, Dakota and Spitfires.
The flypast was led by Merlin, Puma and Chinook helicopters, which provide essential transport for troops and equipment and vital medical emergency aid to UK and NATO troops, followed by the Dakota, Lancaster and two Spitfires of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Next followed a Sentry E-3D – one of the RAF’s airborne ‘eyes and ears’ intelligence-gathering aircraft – flanked by two HS-125s, which were making their last appearance in the annual Queen’s Birthday Flypast.
The RAF’s ability to transport troops, aircraft or equipment anywhere across the globe was demonstrated by the immense C-17 and Voyager transport aircraft. They were escorted by three Tornado GR4s and three multi-role Typhoons – the jet responsible for intercepting unidentified aircraft in UK airspace.
Finally, the iconic nine-strong Red Arrows, flying in a ‘Big Wing’ formation in their distinctive red Hawk jets, ended the flypast. 2014 is a special year for the Red Arrows, marking their 50th display season.
Squadron Leader Andy King, the formation lead and piloting one of the Typhoons, said: “It’s an honour to perform Her Majesty’s Birthday Flypast. All Royal Air Force assets are busy on operations and training tasks, so coordinating the different aircraft and personnel does take a degree of organisation.
“We are, however, all like-minded individuals who were determined to get the job done to the best of our ability, and flying over central London in a military aircraft is always exhilarating.”
Sqn Ldr King, 35, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, added: “Briefings and practices took place last week to ensure the event well – and we’re glad the weather held out for Her Majesty too.”
Flight Lieutenant Christian Morton, 35, from Poole, Dorset, captained the E-3D Sentry and said: “It was an honour being selected to fly the Sentry for the Queen’s Birthday Flypast for the second year in a row.
“It’s a particularly special feeling when the hard work has paid off and you finally see the crowds gathered on the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace.”
The Sentry’s navigator, Flight Lieutenant Steven Bishop, 39, from Chipping Sodbury, added: “It’s an honour to fly the Sentry again for this State occasion. As the navigator on the lead aircraft of the main formation there’s a lot of responsibility on me to get timings exactly right, with millions of people around the world watching and the RAF in the spotlight, but it’s always a proud moment when it goes to plan.
“My favourite part is sitting down with my children to watch the highlights after we’ve landed and showing them ‘what Daddy did at work today.’”
Flight Lieutenant Luke Vardy, 34, from Thorverton, Devon, was co-piloting one of the HS-125s and said: “When I was given the chance to fly across Buckingham Palace in formation for the Queen’s Birthday, I promptly cancelled my holiday to the Far East and jumped at the opportunity!
“Occasions like this are unique to the military and I and the whole crew will remember this unique experience for the rest of our lives.”
Flight Lieutenant Tom Benson, 34, from Nottingham, was flying one of the Tornado GR4s. He said: “It’s a great privilege to take part in the Queen’s Birthday Flypast and something that I’ve always wanted to participate in.
“It was a challenge flying alongside the enormous Voyager at 1000 feet over central London, however it was one that my colleagues and I relished on such an important State occasion.”
The flypast was composed of the following:
First Element: A Merlin and two Puma 2s from RAF Benson, Oxon, and a Chinook from RAF Odiham, Hants.
Second Element: A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota, based at RAF Coningsby
Third Element: A Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and two Spitfires, based at RAF Coningsby
Fourth Element: A Sentry E-3D, from RAF Waddington, Lincs, and two HS-125s, from RAF Northolt
Fifth Element: A C-17 and a Voyager, from RAF Brize Norton, Oxon, three Typhoons, from RAF Coningsby, Lincs, and three Tornado GR4s, from RAF Marham, Norfolk
Sixth Element: Nine Hawks of The Red Arrows, from RAF Scampton, Lincs
Editor: Gavin Brown
Photographs: Sgt Ralph Merry
Aircraft of the Royal Air Force and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight taking part in this years Flypast to mark the Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, on the 14th June 2014 over Buckingham Palace.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014