Pathfinder International Editor, Mal Robinson, once took part in a Royal flyover of Buckingham Palace. Here on the day of the incredible RAF100 flypast over London, he recalls that moment in question.
“I joined the Royal Air Force in February, 2003, after some guidance from my Father, who had served almost 44-years in the British Army. He advised that the RAF would be a better fit for me and he was correct.
I had completed my basic training at RAF Halton by the end of March and I was posted to RAF Brize Norton for my trade training as Movements Controller. Brize Norton is one of the RAF’s largest bases and its main transport hub.
As we were recruits, we were offered the opportunity to board a Tri Star C2 passenger aircraft as part of that year’s Queen’s birthday flypast. Myself and two others from the course were the only volunteers, the others opting to go home for the weekend. The lure of a possible once in a lifetime opportunity, with subsequent beers to follow was just too much for we three and we boarded our round robin flight at 0930 hours.
For us it was a first hand insight into the planning and preparation for the five or ten minutes the crowds outside Buckingham Palace and the millions back on TV see.
The flypast over Buckingham Palace, I recall was scheduled for something like 1300 hours, so the 0930 take off from Brize Norton itself tells its own story about preparation time in the air. We were to join a circle formation over The Wash, the estuary in the North West corner of East Anglia, with other aircraft such as the huge C17 Globemaster in front of us.
We were invited to the flight deck to witness in person the flurry of aircraft in front of us and it was some sight to be trailing a C17 mid air so close.
The proximity of aircraft was soon about to become a lot closer and with details of our Tri Star on final approach to Buckingham Palace, we were joined on either wing by the Tornado fighter jet. It was something unfamiliar to be sat looking out of a passenger plane window (regardless of it being RAF owned or not) and see a fighter plane adjacent to you.
We rumbled into central London and the low altitude meant we were in for a bumpy ride, our huge aircraft, which could carry up to 320 passengers, bouncing on the tips of London’s skyscrapers and over The Mall.
We returned to Brize Norton as soon as we had waved our salute to her Majesty.
Watching today’s ceremony and flypast brought all of the memories flooding back. It really does feel like an exciting time for the RAF as it enters its second century of service. I was proud to have served and be part of an organisation with the high levels of integrity and inclusion the RAF offers and I am intrigued to see how the next chapter of history is written.
Per ardua ad astra.”