2011 UK Airshows

APR 15 2011
Airshows >> UK: 2011 Royal Air Force Tucano Display Pilot - Flt Lt Dan Hayes

The last time Gareth and I were in Yorkshire on official GAR business it was to meet the 2010 Tucano Display Pilot, Flt Lt Tom Bould, and his Manager, Flt Lt Martin Wintermeyer. On that occasion we really could not have picked a better day so far as the weather was concerned.

Twelve months on and we were back to meet Tom and Martin's successors, joined this time by PlanesTV's Iain Campbell, who is responsible for the video content you can see further down the page. Incredibly, the conditions were almost identical to those we'd been treated to a year earlier.

Flt Lt Nathan Dales, 2011 Tucano Display Manager

Meeting us at the Guardroom just before 0800 was Flt Lt Nathan Dales, the 2011 Tucano Display Manager. Nathan is a former VC10 pilot and has flown sorties in support of operations in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. His current posting to 207(R) Sqn is his second as a Tucano QFI (Qualified Flying Instructor) and, prior to returning to Linton in the autumn of 2009, Nathan had spent the previous three years in Brunei, instructing on the PC-7II and flying the CASA CN235.

After booking in, we made our way across to 207(R) Sqn, where we had our first chance to meet the new kid on the block.

Flt Lt Dan Hayes is the man selected to display the Tucano during the forthcoming airshow season. Like his forerunner, Dan is a 'Creamie'. That means that, after undergoing and passing the 208(R) Sqn Advanced Flying Training course at RAF Valley, he was posted back to Linton-on-Ouse to start the Central Flying School (CFS) course where he would receive instructor training and, upon graduation, become a QFI - qualifications which he would then use to teach the next wave of student pilots.

2011 Tucano Display Pilot, Flt Lt Dan Hayes

Now, at just 25 years of age, Dan will represent 207(R) Sqn, 1 FTS and RAF Linton-on-Ouse for the duration of the 2011 airshow season - assuming all goes well at PDA (Public Display Authorisation) on Wednesday, April 27th at RAF Cranwell.

Dan had three display slots available to him during the day, from which he would select and use two, and he'd elected to go for the early and the late, so it was at this stage that we backed off, grabbed a coffee and allowed him to get himself ready ahead of the Met Brief.

While the weather was sunny, Dan had expressed concerns about the haze, but the Metman was sure that it'd burn off, leaving around 30kms of visibility by later in the day.

We knew from our 2010 visit that Linton's two towers - the old and the new - afforded some different views of the display and, for Dan's first run through, Nathan ensured that we were on the balcony of the new tower - meaning that we were reasonably close to and looking down the 230m line. Dan kicked off with his full routine which, as you'll hopefully see during the season - weather permitting - features lots of vertical work. I only hope that we get to see the specially painted aircraft in similarly lovely conditions at some point!

With Dan complete on his first run, we had just enough time to pile back into the PlanesTV van and head across to the old tower, where Deputy Display Supervisor, Sqn Ldr Andy Scott was maintaining a watchful eye over proceedings. This location is set much further back from the display line, but does position you much more akin to crowd centre, thus offering a different perspective.

For run number two Dan opted for the rolling display. As you would expect, this featured a lot less vertical content and, amongst other manoeuvres, a configured (or dirty) pass and a slow aileron roll.

Complete and back on the ground we headed back inside for another cuppa. We had a little more time at our disposal on this occasion while we waited for Dan to join us, and it was great fun looking through the name badges and course photos adorning the walls, picking out friends from the past and present.

While we were aware of a few vague details about the special scheme for this year's display aircraft (which you've doubtless seen already - though higher resolution imagery is now available!), Nathan had kept his cards very close to his chest up until the point that Dan reappeared. Just a quick reference to it was all that it took for Dan to disappear off to grab a print-out to show us… I for one was delighted to see that the silver was actually the base colour for the top surfaces! It's very different and that can only be good.

With everyone refreshed, it was out to the line to get some promo shots and video content in the bag. This was both Nathan and Dan's first media assignment and the pair seemed really comfortable with it, which made things extremely easy for us and bodes well for them in the months ahead.

It was positively balmy and the Metman's forecast proved to be bang on the money (first time for everything, eh?!), so it would have been rude to turn down the opportunity of taking the first outdoor lunch of the year. Walking across to the canteen I asked Dan about being 'creamed off'.

"There were three of us 'creamed and streamed' in total from my course and another and, however you look at it, it is a bit of a double-edged sword. When you've completed the 208 course, all you want to do is get to the Tactical Weapons Unit and then the front-line, but at the same time, it is a huge compliment and something to be extremely proud of. While I was asked where I'd like to go by the Boss, I'm not sure that had any bearing, and the final decision was down to manning.

"Obviously I could have stayed at Valley on the Hawk, but my preference was to come back to Linton to instruct on the Tucano, and, fortunately, that's how it panned out!"

Now Dan finds himself holding the key to the 2011 Display Pilot's position firmly in his hands. But how did 'the gig' end up coming his way?

"Selection started really early, back in August, I think it was. Five people including myself put our names forward and we then had about three weeks to decide how we wanted to demonstrate our aerobatic skills, as well as showing we had thought about it from a crowd perspective as well as an in cockpit perspective.

"I decided early on that the Tucano performs best when it is kept close to the crowd and has familiar manoeuvres that everyone can recognise, as well as a few for the professionals to hopefully admire. "Unfortunately it is not an Extra 300, so I decided early on to take that route, and it developed from there, though I have to admit that what I flew then doesn't bare much relation to what I'll be flying in the season ahead!

"Once I had been up and practised it we each had to fly with the Boss, who was new in post at the time so could critique with no other influences, and it was his job to ensure those put forward were capable of doing the job safely. Once we had that tick in the box it was time to fly it with the Chief Instructor (CI), OC Flying Wing. We were allowed two run throughs, at 4000ft in the overhead of the airfield, using the runway as a simulated crowd line. We all flew on the same day to keep conditions as fair as possible, with the CI remaining in the aircraft whilst the five guys conducted running changes! Rather him than me sitting through five wannabe display pilots routines twice!

"After the flying we then had an interview which covered all the usual questions such as 'why do you want to be the display pilot' etc, and, after much deliberation and waiting on our part, the tension was over and I was told I would be the 2011 Display Pilot about a month after the whole process began, with the caveat that I had to get my A2 Instructor Qualification beforehand, which is no easy task and meant doing it early!

"For three months I had no social life but I fortunately managed to get the test done on the final day before the Christmas Stand-Down, and I was then definitely the Display Pilot for this year!"

The conversation changes direction slightly to Dan's age and it's determined that, at 25, he's pretty much as young as he physically could be to be a display pilot under today's rules and regulations and with the current length of holds between courses. Having joined the RAF straight after school, Dan completed Initial Officer Training (IOT) at the end of 2005 and had a five month wait before commencing Elementary Flying Training (EFT).

Dan picks up the story: "After being streamed Fast Jets I had another six month hold before completing Basic Fast Jet Training (BFJT) on my 22nd birthday, graduating the week after. My BFJT graduation was on the Friday and I started 208(R) Sqn the following Monday!

"After being creamed off I had a further two month hold waiting for my CFS course and achieved my B2 Instructor Qualification in Jul 09, working up to A2 by Dec 10.

2011 Tucano Display Pilot, Flt Lt Dan Hayes

"With holds now appearing between Linton and Valley, I doubt that there'll be a display pilot as young as myself for some time..."

Later investigation concludes that so far as history goes, he's actually an old man! Andy Offer, a name synonymous with the Red Arrows and more recently The Blades, was, apparently, a mere 22 years of age when he displayed the Jet Provost, as was his predecessor, Fg Off Sean Chiddention.

After lunch we watched through the two morning practices with Dan himself offering comment on what he's doing and what he's trying to achieve, including a few tricks of the trade that have passed me by all these years! It's fascinating to hear his take on things and gives a totally different perspective to the display to that which you will most likely get from the crowdline.

There was just enough time to pop across to the paintshop before it was time for Dan to prepare to fly again. Unlike previous years, only one aircraft, ZF378, will be painted this time around, on both cost and decency grounds - it would hardly seem right to be spending money on painting two aircraft when Linton has just lost a number of student aircrew to redundancies due to the slowing down of the training pipeline.

On this occasion we followed Dan as he got kitted out, completed the necessary paperwork and walked to the aircraft. The light was lovely as he taxied out and, once clear, we made our way back to the old tower to view his final two practices of the day.

Each display slot has to be NOTAMed and, as you would expect, no other airfield movements are allowed to take place while Dan's practising, though there is a small window of opportunity to allow other aircraft to get in or out in between the back-to-back practices.

2011 Tucano Display Pilot, Flt Lt Dan Hayes

On this occasion however, in between Dan getting airborne and him running in to display, another aircraft had gone unserviceable on the runway and had been abandoned on the taxiway just off it. Unfortunately this fell within the sanitised area and meant that Dan had to hold off for a while. The 'linies' were on the ball, however, and soon had a tug wending its way out to recover the stricken aircraft.

While this had taken up some of Dan's 30-minute display window, there was still just enough time for him to fit in his two planned run-throughs - a flat followed by a full.

Nathan filmed both practices, partly as there is actually a requirement to do so for the supervisory process but also to allow Dan to review each one to gauge areas where improvements can be made. Andy Scott also looked on intently and made notes throughout.

"As you can see I am essentially marking each manoeuvre," he told us as Dan completed his second and final run through, and showing us the notes he had been making, "there will be a lot more polish to come as he gains confidence in each version of the sequence, but at the moment I am mainly looking at the lines he is flying, ensuring that he doesn't bust the crowd line and also monitoring safety of course."

After getting out of his flying gear, he joined us on the tower looking decidedly warm - proof, if any were needed, that display flying is hard work.

"It is hard work, but I'm loving it!" beamed Dan.

To find out more, please visit the 2011 Tucano Display website and the Team's Facebook page.

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