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Fagin 11

Air to Air Refuelling Sortie

Call sign "Blacksmith" a flight of Tornado's out of Leuchars climb up alongside ready to receive some fuel

    Quite unexpectedly I received word that a seat would be available for me on a refuelling flight should I so wish to go. Without hesitation I said “yes please” and I only had two days to wait. The morning of the refuelling sortie arrived and I woke very early for the journey down to Brize Norton.

            Call sign "Jedi 1" watches as his companion is taking on fuel

     During my journey down I had time to reflect my previous sortie which was some time ago and about how busy the section are at present with commitments at home and operations overseas, with this in mind any change to the squadrons commitments or a technical problem could quite easily put an end to a training sortie such as this one. The bright start to the morning slowly changed to thick cloud as I travelled down to Brize which wasn’t a problem as it would be on the other side of the cloud where I’d be photographing. Upon arrival at Brize Norton confirmation that the flight was still going ahead dispelled my earlier fears of a cancelled sortie and I made my way to departures to await boarding the aircraft.

"Jedi 1 & 2" making themselves known


Jedi 1 slowly slips aft to find the Tristars fuel line

          Having boarded it wasn’t long before the paperwork arrived and the lists of receivers for this sortie were known to the crew. Moments later, Tristar ZD953 call sign Fagin 11 started its three RB211 engines, completed their checks and we were taxing to the 08 end of the runway. With very little in the way of traffic at Brize Norton to affect our flight we were cleared to enter and take off. Which without hesitation we did and were soon into the thick cloud that covered most of the country heading for an area just to the North of Newcastle over the North Sea known as ARA5 (air refuelling area 5).

"NATO 13" ZH101 Boeing E3D out of Waddington practices formation flying with the Tristar

             Once on station in the area and having got my camera ready whilst flying up to AAR5, the Tristar started to fly in a racetrack configuration at 20,000ft to await its first trade of the day. We didn’t have to wait long when a call from Jedi 1 & 2, which were two GR7’s out of Cottesmore. Climbing up alongside on our Port side and giving the crew of Fagin 11 a visual that they were ready to take on fuel. One of the pair of GR9's slipped backwards and slowly down making its way to the outstretched delivery hose, which hung from the centre line of Fagin 11's fuselage. As soon as he was attached two tons of fuel began to flow, this was being pumped from the Tristar to the thirsty GR7. Upon completion the GR7 detached and climbed up alongside us, this time on the Starboard side to await the second GR7 as he carried out the same refuelling technique. When the second aircraft had finished taking onboard his allotted two tons of fuel he detached to join his companion on the Starboard side before moving away to carry on with their sortie.

          Fagin 11 continued to fly in its racetrack holding pattern while we waited for out next trade a pair of Typhoons, and so it went on. The only deviant from the routine of delivering fuel came when an 8 Sqn AWACS came up to carry out refuelling practice. As the Tristar remained on station the AWACS made numerous approaches and hook up’s without taking onboard any fuel. Taking around 40tons of fuel to be delivered to around a dozen aircraft and with each recipient taking onboard about 2tons each the whole refuelling sortie lasted a total of 4hrs 55mins from take off to landing. 

         This was the routine throughout the Tri-Stars five hour mission, most of its trade turned up as tasked but there was a few exceptions who didn't show but for all those that did, they were dealt with in the usual professional RAF manner 

Many thanks to all concerned