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RAF Coningsby: At the Cutting Edge of the Typhoon Force

There's no rest for RAF Coningsby, as they train front-line Typhoon pilots amid a busy season of air shows and ops.

Typhoon

RAF Coningsby, home of the Typhoon Display Team, is at the forefront of training front-line pilots for the Typhoon Force.  

In leafy Lincolnshire, the roar of the Typhoon is not just an expressive sound - but an impressive sight too.

Coningsby is one of just two RAF Quick Reaction Alert Stations, which protect UK airspace 24/7.

It boasts two front-line combat-ready squadrons, and is where Typhoon pilots get their wings.

Squadron Leader Tristan Simkins is from 29 Squadron, that trains RAF combat air pilots.

He said: “For the operational conversion, we’re looking at about six months for them to come from Hawk at RAF Valley.

“They’ll arrive here, start their ground school, go all the way through the process and then step out of the door ready to join a front-line squadron ready to deploy and defend the UK at a moment’s notice.”

A Typhoon simulator, housed within RAF Coningsby, is fundamental to the training of future fast jet pilots.

Sqn Ldr Simkins continued: “The developments of synthetic training have been quite remarkable in the last ten years, so really when you’re sat in the Typhoon simulator, you feel like you’re in the aircraft.

“You can hear trainee pilots G-straining, even though the simulator doesn’t have any G. It’s just because all of their senses are telling them that they’re in that jet.

“It’s a very immersive environment to train.”

The first time flying solo in a Typhoon is a special moment, and one that Sqn Ldr Simkins relishes being part of.

He added: “It’s an incredible experience.

“Not only because it’s their first time in a reheat equipped fast jet, but also because our training systems are so advanced and our simulators are so good, we can train a pilot from Hawk having never sat in a real Typhoon.

“The next trip they do will be on their own with me just closely monitoring and being on the radio.

“When they come down, there’s a permanent grin, and there’s a certain look on their face after they’ve done that first trip.

“We give them their Typhoon badge, and welcome them to the fighter pilot fraternity.”

Not just a training facility, RAF Coningsby is also home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Typhoon Display Team - which both have a busy schedule of shows ahead of them this summer.

This year’s Typhoon Display Team from 29 Squadron work tirelessly to perfect the choreography of the display ready for air show season.

Flight Lieutenant Jim Peterson is now in his second year as the Typhoon Display Team pilot. 

He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic. To get one season was a privilege, especially in the RAF’s 100th year.

“But to get a second season is pretty unheard of. I feel very grateful for it.”

Flt Lt Peterson added: “The work up so far has proved that doing it for a second year is better because I’ve been able to adapt the previous display.

“I’ve made the display slightly more complex just because I’m more comfortable handling the aircraft, and actually I’ve tried to bring the outside edges in.

“So that if you’re stood in the crowd, you won’t have to be swinging your head left and right.

“You should have a lot more noise and aircraft in your face, in front of you for longer.”

Reflecting on his favourite moment from the last 12 months as the Typhoon Display Pilot, he continued: “The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) was incredible, just because of the size of the whole thing.

“We had some brilliant weather, the turnout was amazing and the fact that it was RAF 100 was great.”

He added: “Seeing the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with their seven aircraft, the fact that I had not been to RIAT since I was 15 years old, and to get in a jet and do a display as the sun was setting on the Friday night was really special.”

The full schedule for the Typhoon Display Team season has now been released.

Follow @RAFTyphoonTeam on Twitter for updates.