Royal Flypast

15 June 2013

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A formation of RAF helicopters and fixed wing aircraft provided the impressive finale to today’s celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s Official birthday. At precisely 1pm a formation of 30 aircraft led by Chinook and Merlin helicopters flew down the Mall and over Buckingham Palace concluding the official celebrations of the Queen’s Birthday parade, which had taken place earlier on Horse Guards parade. The Queen joined by many other members of the Royal family watched the flypast from the balcony of Buckingham palace.

Queen's Birthday FlypastThe flypast comprised 30 aircraft of 12 different types from the famous Lancaster bomber of the RAF Memorial Flight to modern multi-role Typhoon fighters, the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team and the RAF’s latest and largest transport aircraft, Voyager. The formation was divided into eight elements, 30 seconds apart, acknowledging the history of the RAF; this year being its 95th anniversary, and the roles that the Service currently undertakes.

Support helicopters led by the iconic Chinook were first to pass followed by the understandably slower WWII Lancaster bomber of the RAF Memorial Flight. Tornado GR4s from 617 & IX(B) Squadrons came next led by the Officer Commanding today’s 617 Squadron “Dambusters” Wing Commander Dave Arthurton who will soon be deploying his Squadron, in its 70th anniversary year, to Afghanistan. Next the bigger, faster aircraft defining Combat ISTAR; the Sentry E3-D flanked by Typhoons from 3(F) Squadron. The Sentry is part of a complementary fleet of aircraft based at RAF Waddington that are the “eyes & ears” of the RAF. The Typhoons are 4th generation multi-role jets, one such role being the defence of the UK’s airspace as the Quick Reaction Alert aircraft.

Queen's Birthday Flypast

Global Air Mobility elements were next with a range of aircraft starting with the immense C-17 Globemaster III; eight of these giants reside at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire and are one of the foundations of the RAF’s strategic ability to transport UK or NATO troops, equipment & aircraft anywhere in the world. Most recently the C-17 supported French and West African forces operating in Mali as did the 32(TR) Squadron HS-125 jets flanking the C-17.

Thirty seconds later the RAF’s longest serving aircraft, 216 & 101 Squadrons’ Tristar & VC-10, passed over Buckingham palace. These venerable aircraft are another foundation on which the RAF’s Strategic Global Air Mobility capability depends. Both aircraft will though in due course be replaced by Voyager, which followed seconds behind the older aircraft.

The 10 Squadron Voyager, flanked by two Tornado GR4s and followed closely behind by two Typhoons, is the latest and largest aircraft in the RAF. It will operate as a transporter and air-to-air refuelling tanker ensuring the RAF’s Strategic Global Air Mobility well into the 21st century.

Finally, drawing the flypast to a close three minutes 30 seconds after the lead aircraft, came the suitably inspiring nine-ship “Big wing” formation of the world famous Red Arrows Aerobatic Team. The “Reds”, busy as ever had already displayed earlier on Saturday in the Netherlands.

Squadron Leader Simon Oldfield, responsible for planning the flypast, summed up the occasion, “The weeks and months of hard work have paid off. It’s an honour and privilege to play my part amongst the many men and women who have made this flypast possible for Her Majesty The Queen on her birthday. It’s also a wonderful occasion and opportunity for the public to witness the skills and professionalism of RAF personnel who continue to serve on operations around the world.”

Top: Red Arrows
Middle: Voyager, Typhoon and Tornados
Bottom: Tri-Star and the wonderful VC10

Editor: Mr Ed Marshal

Photographers:Sgt Jez Doak and Sgt Ralph Merry ABIPP RAF

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