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the crowds and was amazed by the number

of people, just as I am by those who routinely

come out to watch the BBMF. It is rather

amusing that although the crew have a hand-

held GPS on board, we do look for landmarks,

often a bouncy castle at a village fete!

Why do you think the Dambusters Raid

still interests people 75 years on?

It was such a daring raid on an unfamiliar

heavily fortified target, at low level (60 ft.

above the dams) which was

not routine, at night and with a

revolutionary bomb. It was the

first demonstration of precision

bombing done by a small team in

the days of 1000 bomber raids

on the Continent. It was a huge

morale boost and gave out a

message of what the Allied forces

were capable of. I guess it can be

compared to the Black Buck raids

during the Falklands conflict where

the RAF demonstrated their

capability. The Vulcan bombers

could have made it to Buenos Aires and this

message was part of the strategy. 

How long will the Lancaster continue to fly?

I would say indefinitely. It is possible that air

safety standards may move forward such that

they would stop the aircraft being flown in air

displays, but mechanically it could keep flying.

Parts are still available for the Merlin engines

and the blueprints for the aircraft still exist.

PA474 has flown 6,000 hours in her life and

has to fly 104 hours a year to keep her flying. 

The BBMF display season normally runs

from the beginning of May to the end of

September each year, with pre-season

work-up flying for the crews taking place

in April. For dates check their website:



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or the BBMF


on a British Airways flight to visit family in

France. The Captain let me sit on the flight

deck as often happened in the days before

terrorist threats in aviation and this rapidly

changed my mind about my career choice! 

Were you in the CCF at school?

At Merchant Taylors School, I initially joined

the Army section but then transferred to

RAF section. I then joined the University

Air Squadron while studying Engineering at

Southampton. Both the CCF and ATC are

amazing youth organisations for providing

fantastic opportunities and giving a good

grounding in life and discipline. Just after the

first Gulf War I was attracted to the glamour

and honour of fast jets having seen the


from Bahrain

video (now on YouTube), and

decided to train as a military pilot. 

Tell us about the Lancaster…

The Avro Lancaster is the most famous

heavy bomber of the Second World War.

PA474 (which I fly) is one of only two

Lancaster aircraft remaining in an airworthy

condition out of the 7,377 that were built.

She rolled off the production line in May

1945 therefore never saw action in Europe.

She was prepared for use in the conflict in

the Far East against the Japanese as part of

the ‘Tiger Force’ however hostilities ended

before she was deployed. She was fitted with

larger radiators in readiness for the climate

in the Far East which is now a benefit as

there is no issue with overheating if forced

to wait in a queue at airshows, which often

causes problems for the Spitfire! 

My qualifying flight on the Lancaster was

in May 2015. When flying the Lancaster, the

Captain is at the controls for take-off and

landing and the Co-Pilot will fly the aircraft

in between as this is how training is done.

Unfortunately I was Co-Pilot (Captain under

training) when there was an engine fire and

the aircraft was grounded for the season in

2015, but my favourite memory was leading

the formation of the two remaining airworthy

Lancasters down Derwent Reservoir in 2014

alongside the Canadian plane known as VeRA

on her UK tour. I currently have 150 hours

of flying recorded in the aircraft. 

(Guy Gibson’s

log book shows that by 25th May 1943 he

had recorded 644.25 hours of day and night

operational flying – Ed) 

Guy Gibson's log book

Dakota over Teddies, 2013











Flying the Lancaster is a huge

responsibility as you don’t want to be

the one who puts a dent in a very special

aircraft! It is obviously also a huge privilege

to honour the actions of childhood heroes

but the greatest privilege is being able to talk

to the veterans. These brave men will often

speak to us as the crews of the BBMF when

they have never spoken of their experiences

to their own families.

And the Dakota?

The Dakota C-47 is the most

famous military transport aircraft.

ZA947, named ‘Kwicherbichen’

by her crews, was involved in

para-dropping operations on the

eve of D-Day and subsequently in

re-supply and casualty evacuation

missions into and out of forward

airfields in the combat areas. She

was issued to the BBMF in 1993

and is an important training asset

used for initial training of aircrew

for the BBMF multi-engine aircraft and also

to keep the Lancaster pilots up to date each

year. The Dakota is a more straightforward

aircraft to fly compared to the four-engined

Lancaster which requires two pilots. 

I flew the Dakota over Teddies in 2013

for the 150th Anniversary celebrations. At

250 ft. above the school grounds I could see

Plaque on PA474 fuselage

which the crew touch

before each flight

Scan the code to experience the

Lancaster flight down Derwent

Water from the cockpit