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It will be emotional when Tornado is retired – last RAF pilot trained to fly jet

The famous aircraft will leave RAF service before the end of March.

An RAF Tornado GR4 with a specially painted livery to commemorate the aircraft’s retirement from service touches down on the runway at RAF Marham in Norfolk (Joe Giddens/ PA)
An RAF Tornado GR4 with a specially painted livery to commemorate the aircraft’s retirement from service touches down on the runway at RAF Marham in Norfolk (Joe Giddens/ PA)

The last ever pilot to be trained for Tornado jet operations by the RAF has said it will be “emotional” when the aircraft is retired this year.

Flight Lieutenant Nathan Shawyer, 27, has flown Tornados into Syria and Iraq in the fight against Islamic State in his two years with 31 Squadron.

The final Tornados will leave service before the end of March after almost 40 years with the RAF.

“I’m the last ever Tornado pilot to be trained by the RAF,” he said.

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Flight Lieutenant Nathan Shawyer at RAF Marham in Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

“After everything that’s come before, it’s quite a thrill, quite an honour.”

The Tornado has been in service since 1979 and was first used in combat during the first Gulf War.

Its capabilities will be transferred to the Typhoon, which will also be Flt Lt Shawyer’s next aircraft.

Speaking at RAF Marham in Norfolk, where the Tornado is based, he said: “It’s an absolutely awesome machine to fly.

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Three specially painted GR4s off the wing of a Voyager flying over the North Sea (Cpl Lee Matthews RAF/PA)

“It’s very mechanical, it’s clearly very aged now compared with a lot of the modern jets we have these days but I absolutely love it.

“It’s best suited at low level, it’s very stable at low level and that’s where it really enjoys itself.”

Flt Lt Shawyer, originally from Devon, said it will be “quite emotional” when the Tornado leaves service.

“A lot of people have invested a lot of time into the Tornado,” he said.

“It’s given us 37 years of fantastic service and been all over the world and done a lot of things for the United Kingdom.”

He said it would be remembered as the “workhorse” of the RAF.

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Members of the ground crew with one of three RAF Tornado GR4 jets which have been painted in a special livery (Joe Giddens/ PA)

“It’s been on operations every year now for I think 20 years or so,” he said.

“It’s really given its due in terms of being the platform to depend on and rely on for the last couple of decades.”

RAF Marham Station Commander Group Captain Ian ‘Cab’ Townsend said there will be a “finale flypast” around the UK to commemorate places that have contributed to the Tornado over the years.

There will also be a single sortie over the disbandment parade at RAF Marham on March 14, he said.

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An RAF Tornado GR4 with a specially painted livery comes in to land at RAF Marham (Joe Giddens/PA)

Commemorations have already begun, with three Tornados specially painted with squadron artwork and around 150 plane enthusiasts invited to RAF Marham on Friday to see Tornados up close.

More than 1,300 people had requested to come.

Press Association

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