It hardly seems a moment ago that I wrote my first ‘State of the Nation’ address in May of last year. But, indeed, another hectic year has passed since Flight lieutenants Keith Hildred, Simon Batt and I returned from Toronto and our historic meeting with Flight lieutenant Henry Botterell (Ret’d) who, at 105 is the only surviving WWI fighter pilot, and an ex-member of 208 Squadron to boot. What an honour that was, and hope that all Association members saw at least one of the ensuing articles that appeared in the Sunday Times, the RAF News and its MOD companion ‘FOCUS’ Magazine.
In last year’s missive, I announced the arrival on the flight line of the new aircraft markings, which reflect as much of the Squadron history as possible in an overall effort to instil a sense of historical pride in our student population. That transformation is now complete and it is very rewarding to see a whole line of Hawks emblazoned with the Eye of Horus on the tail fin, the 'Blue and Yellow’ fuselage bands, and the Buccaneer arrowhead on the nose. This colour scheme is also reflected in the new ‘Squadron Print’, which should be available shortly (from the Squadron Adjutant). The new Course Badge (chosen by the trainee pilots themselves) to replace the 'Naked Lady’ has proven very popular and I have included a copy of the badge at the end of this article. Whilst on the subject of badges, we have also replaced the ‘4FTS’ Hawk patch with one of our own - a black Hawk resplendent on a vertical Buccaneer arrowhead. This badge is awarded to both staff and students on their first solo flight in the HawK. The Buccaneer arrowhead is, itself, developing nicely as a ‘corporate' logo and now festoons many of our publications, including our new pages on the RAF Valley Website (now superceded by this Website! - Webmaster). Although we are just beginning, I am endeavouring to develop this website into an authoritative repository of Squadron history and current operations, so I would be very grateful to receive any comments or additions that anyone might have.
As I said at the beginning, this has been a hectic year by any standards. The pace of training has continued its relentless increase as the Squadron has built up its capability to meet the current requirements. In May of last year, a typical daily programme comprised some 50 sorties. At time of writing, we have just completed our first 72-sortie day (having flown all but 3 of those programmed) and the plan is to increase to 84 per day in the not-too-distant future. All of this will, I am sure, allow us to meet the requirement for some 11,500 sorties per year, and the RAF to meet is requirement for some 60 ab-initio pilots Into Productive Service.
August of last year saw a major change in RAF policy that marked the end of an era for 208 Squadron. Trainee pilots are now awarded their ‘wings’ at the end of Basic Fast Jet Training at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, before arriving at RAF Valley. We have therefore lost the traditional Wings Ceremony. However, in true Squadron style, we went out with a bang, holding a ‘SuperGrad’ at which wings were awarded to some 60 trainee pilots on 5 concurrent courses.