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22 June 2016

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RAF Coningsby was justifiably proud of the Station’s contribution towards the celebrations of Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday recently. What many may not know is that the Station also provided the tribute for her 60th Birthday celebrations.

qbf cockpit viewWith the Tornado F2 recently arrived, 229 Operational Conversion Unit was working up towards running the first course to convert crews onto the F2 to form the first operational squadron. With only ten Tornado F2s available the OCU received the accolade of mounting the Queen’s Birthday Flypast for 1986.

Nothing is left to chance for such a prestigious event and the Leader and Deputy Leader flew a practice sortie in advance, albeit stopping short of flying over London. They did, however, have the luxury of flying the whole route in a helicopter before the main event, a Puma making somewhat less noise than nine Tornados. The remainder of the formation also had the opportunity to practice their formation flying skills during a dress rehearsal sortie.

On 14 June 1986, Windsor formation led by Wing Commander Rick Peacock-Edwards and Squadron Leader Stu Black flying ZD937, appropriately carrying the code “AQ” (nicknamed “Queenie” for the day), launched just before mid day and formed up over the North Sea. The “whip” marshalled the pilots checking formation positions and offering advice on spacing. When one aircraft returned to Coningsby with a problem the “whip” became a last minute substitute and slotted into formation. There were tense moments in the hold hoping that the remaining aircraft remained serviceable.

qbf diamond 9

In the event and under blue skies, the crews flew down The Mall and overhead Buckingham Palace at precisely 1300 in a perfect “Diamond Nine” formation. Even traffic at Heathrow was held briefly as the formation departed before returning to Coningsby to take part in a Station Open Day. To celebrate the occasion first day covers were issued which were flown in the lead aircraft overhead the Palace.

I am sure we all hope that the Station will be able to take part in a 100th Birthday celebration.

Editor Dave Gledhill

Photographs Dave Gledhill, Rick Peacock-Edwards.

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