Tor­nado farewell

Pilot - - OLD TIMERS - Re­port: Paul Fid­dian

The Tor­nado GR4 was given a mem­o­rable three-week send­off at RAF Marham prior to its ‘out-of-ser­vice date’−15 March 2019. The long-serv­ing MRCA (Multi-role Com­bat Air­craft) en­tered RAF ser­vice in 1982 as the swing-wing strike Tor­nado GR1. Sub­se­quently up­graded to the GR4, it had thirty years’ nearcon­tin­u­ous op­er­a­tional use, from 1990’s Op­er­a­tion Granby to the on­go­ing Op­er­a­tion Shader, which Tor­na­dos sup­ported from RAF Akrotiri un­til Jan­uary 2019.

Flown be­tween 19-21 Fe­bru­ary, a series of ‘Fi­nale’ fly­pasts cov­ered three daily over­flight routes of for­mer Tor­nado bases, as­sem­bly, train­ing and test­ing sites. The three spe­cial-schemed Tor­na­dos (see Spring Old Timers) should have flown each day but cam­ou­flaged ZG752 and No IX(B)’S Sqn’s bat-em­bla­zoned ZG775 were un­ser­vice­able un­til the last day’s Scot­tish sor­tie. No 31’s gold­starred ZD716 there­fore led two standard ex­am­ples over the Mid­lands and South­ern Eng­land.

On 28 Fe­bru­ary, in chal­leng­ing weather, nine Tor­na­dos headed by ZG752 were launched from Marham. After head­ing north to salute the grad­u­ates at RAF Cran­well, they re­turned to base for a series of passes and a fi­nal run­way photo-call. Crewed by Squadron Lead­ers Ian Dor­nan and Stephen Beard­more, the cam­ou­flaged Tor­nado made its last in-ser­vice flight at the se­cond En­thu­si­asts Day on 8 March. The same per­son­nel flew stan­dard­marked Tor­nado GR4 ZA463 at No IX(B) and 31 Squadron’s dis­band­ment cer­e­mony on 14 March. Three low and fast wingss­wept passes were made, the last fin­ish­ing with a spear­ing zoom­climb into re­tire­ment.

The last RAF Tor­nado GR4 ZA463 land­ing at Marham on 14 March

The RAF'S fi­nal for­ma­tion of Tor­na­dos on 28 Fe­bru­ary, led by cam­ou­flaged ZG752

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