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VIDEO: No 29 Squadron in AFM, part two

Photo: Although in the past the Typhoon OCU has mainly operated two-seat Typhoon ‘T-birds’, it now favours the single-seat ‘fighter’ FGR4. Jamie Hunter


The April issue of AFM, on sale now, includes the first of a two-part feature, visiting No 29 Squadron at RAF Coningsby to learn how the Royal Air Force trains new Eurofighter Typhoon pilots.  While on the base, the AFM team had the chance to capture some videos of the RAF’s Typhoon Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at work:

No 29 Squadron underpins the RAF Typhoon Force, the cornerstone of the UK’s combat air capability.  “I often walk through our hangar on a Friday afternoon to help me appreciate the sheer scale of what we do here,” says Wg Cdr Andy Chisholm, Officer Commanding No 29 Squadron.  “This is a big responsibility, and something I’ve wanted to do since I was ten years old.  The Typhoon Force thrives or fails right here.”

Wg Cdr Chisholm is a man with significant responsibility, and his remit extends well beyond the pilot side of the house, which inevitably attracts the most attention.  “We train 1,000 engineers every year, and our weight of effort is actually training these young airmen.  On the flight line, teams of orange-jacketed trainees are learning how to be line engineers.  In the TTF [Typhoon Training Facility], there are classrooms with hundreds of engineers all being schooled in the A-Z of Typhoon maintenance.  In our hangar they study how to fix real aircraft with proper hands-on tuition.  This is where they get their first taste of a frontline fighter.”

At 27, Flt Lt Craig is one of the youngest pilots currently flying the jet, although it’s been a relatively protracted process for him to move through the training system.  Speaking to AFM in January, he was weeks away from the ultimate prize of graduating from the OCU and heading north to join a frontline squadron at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.  “I started here in July 2017 having been at Valley for a year and a half, and I was at Linton [RAF Linton-on-Ouse, North Yorkshire, flying the Tucano] before that.  After EFT [Elementary Flying Training, EFT] I had a two-year gap, having commissioned as a direct entrant in 2010.”

Reflecting on his time in the Hawk T2, Flt Lt Craig comments: “Aeroplane-wise, the stick and throttles do the same thing in the Hawk and the Typhoon.  Now I’m in a single-seat fighter and I’ve got a range of systems to manage.  The flying is becoming second nature, and this means I can concentrate on the mission and the systems.”  Comparing the Hawk T2 and the Typhoon, Craig adds: “They have the same computers, the same displays and when you get to the Typhoon the logic feels familiar.  It’s about how the systems interact with each other, how you manipulate the radar, that kind of thing, so those who have come from the T2 to the Typhoon tend to have a simpler journey.”

The April issue of AFM is available from all good newsagents, from our online store, and as an app.

A lot of the early live flying sees the student flying as wingman to the instructor. Jamie Hunter

Inside the full dome simulator, Flt Lt Phil rehearses his offensive combat sortie, getting onto his instructor’s turning circle. Jamie Hunter


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