2010 Articles

MAR 12 2010
EXCLUSIVE - 2010 RAF Tucano Display Scheme and Interview

With 2010 marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, and with both RAF Linton on Ouse and 72(R) Sqn proud of their heritage from that very event, it is wholly appropriate that the RAF Tucano display aircraft will this year wear the markings of not one, but two Spitfires.

As the most Spitfire-esque aircraft in current RAF service the schemes should look superb on the Tucano, judged even only on the basis of the computer imagery you see here. GAR was fortunate enough to see the two aircraft as work commenced in Linton's paint shop and there is little doubt that they'll start turning heads as soon as they emerge in the next few weeks.

"We've researched the schemes for months," says display pilot Flt Lt Tom Bould, 28, an instructor with 72(R) Sqn.

"The most important thing was to ensure that we got all the detail, the lettering and the colours correct and the RAF Museum, Air Historical Branch and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have all been a great help."

The aircraft will actually be displayed in the colours of 92(F) Sqn and 66(F) Sqn, both of which fought in the Battle of Britain and were subsequently stationed at Linton during the 1950s when they operated Meteors. The fact that 72 Sqn was commanded by two highly decorated WWII fighter pilots in Gp Capt Kingcombe DSO DFC(Bar) and Gp Capt Oxspring DFC(2 Bar) AFC, who served with 92(F) Sqn and 66(F)Sqn respectively, provides a further link with Linton today.

Gp Capt Brian Kingcombe DSO DFC(Bar) was a flight commander on 92 Sqn during the Battle of Britain gaining several kills including a Dornier 17 and two Heinkels. He was shot down by a Me109 but returned to service and commanded 72 Sqn from February 1942 to July 1942. During this time he led the 72 Sqn Spitfires during the initial Swordfish raid as part of the Channel Dash and later led 244 Wg in North Africa, finishing the war with 18 confirmed kills to his name. The aircraft chosen for the 2010 Tucano display scheme is R6908 which wore the designator QJ-F, a 92 Sqn aircraft flown by Kingcombe.

Gp Capt Bobby Oxspring DFC(2 Bars) AFC fought with 66 Sqn during the Battle of Britain. He was shot down in October 1940 but went on to serve with 41 Sqn and then command 91 Sqn before becoming CO of 72 Sqn in North Africa (July 1942 to April 1943). After the Sicily campaign he commanded 24 Wg before the Normandy invasion and remained with the RAF after the war with 14 confirmed kills to his name. He was later awarded the AFC for leading a team of Vampires to Canada - the first jet aircraft to cross the Atlantic. A painting of Gp Cpt Oxspring shows him destroying a Me109 in September 1940 while flying LZ-R of 66 Sqn, and it is this aircraft which has been chosen as the second 2010 display Tucano.

"It was quite an honour to be chosen to fly the Tucano in this year of all years and to display the aircraft in these colours is going to be very exciting," admits Tom.

The Tucano Display Manager, Flt Lt Martin Wintermeyer, a WSO instructor with 76(R) Sqn adds, "It looks great on paper so we can't wait for the aircraft to come out of the paint shop and see them in the flesh. We know there will be a huge demand for the aircraft. The hard work of planning for the season will really begin to pay off when the word is out that we've painted them in these liveries. We're like a spring, coiled and ready for action ... once we have the aircraft ready!"

The Tucano display calendar is already coming together and that often throws up one or two dates that the team is especially looking forward to, with Eastbourne one event that Martin has highlighted, as he has family in the area and has often attended the show himself. While Tom visited RIAT as a youngster, not that he's at all old now I hasten to add, he confesses that he's just "looking forward to all of them"!

For Tom, who has been instructing at Linton for about two years now, display flying has been a long held ambition. He put his name forward last year along with a number of his colleagues and, following a series of interviews, planned a short aerobatic sequence which he flew at altitude with the station's Chief Instructor, Wg Cdr Paul Gerrard, who is supervising all aspects of the display season along with Sqn Ldr Dick Edwards, his deputy. Having been selected as the 2010 display pilot his next job was to work on the routine.

"I spoke to a number of former Tucano display pilots and was able to get a feel for what works and what doesn't work. Then it was a case of sitting down and building it up in to something that would flow and fit together as a balanced display before going up and trying it out in the air."

The Tucano itself is an ideal platform for low level aerobatics with its surplus of power and enough manoeuvrability to allow for a compact display which strays little from the ends of the crowdline.

"My aim is to keep it as tight as I can really. Unlike some of the jets I don't have to go any great distance to reposition so hopefully I can keep the whole display in front of the crowd."

Despite losing a great deal of work-up time due to the UK's worst winter weather for decades, Tom has made great use of a recent improvement in conditions and, at the time of our visit, had just about caught up with his original schedule; the result of two practice flights incorporating four run-throughs a day for almost an entire week. (The day after our visit he flew for the first time at 500ft incidentally).

Having watched Tom practice at 1000ft, the routine is certainly impressively tight and one which promises to look even better as he moves it down to regulation airshow height. More importantly, it's a display which will show off the spectacular paint scheme to great effect and provide plenty of opportunities for aviation photographers.

The Spitfire schemes (or Spitano or Tucfire as we also heard them referred!) and Tom's display certainly left GAR leaving Linton enthused about the part they will play in the 2010 airshow season. Apart from the simple fact that it is good to see the Tucano back on the display circuit, Tom's display and his aircraft are sure to capture the imagination of airshow goers everywhere he flies. What a superb tribute to The Few.

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