The Lockheed TriStar has flown its last operational mission with the Royal Air Force bringing to an end 30 years of service which saw the aircraft at the heart of operations around the world.
On Monday 24th March two TriStar’s of 216 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton flew an air-to-air refuelling mission over the North Sea before one conducted flypasts at airfields associated with its history.
During its service the TriStar, fondly known as ‘Timmy’ by its crews, has formed the backbone of long range air transport and air-to-air refuelling, participating in nearly every British conflict since it was brought into service.
The fleet of nine aircraft were acquired as a direct result of the Falklands conflict and the need to provide support to forces in the South Atlantic and to bolster the air-to-air refuelling fleet.
In more recent times TriStars have provided air-to-air refuelling to fast jet aircraft operating over Afghanistan and Libya and provided the vital air bridge, transporting troops and cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan. Over a period of eight years 216 Sqn flew 1642 times to Afghanistan, carrying a quarter of a million passengers each way and travelling a total distance equivalent to flying around the world 640 times.
Philip Dunne, the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology said:
„TriStar has served the RAF for 30 years and today is an opportunity to celebrate its long and distinguished career. Providing vital support, TriStar has carried over 250,000 troops as well as battle-winning supplies to our personnel wherever they are in the world. It also carried out vital air-to-air refuelling to our frontline combat aircraft at home and on deployed operations.
“Its replacement, Voyager, is testament to our commitment to provide state of the art transport and refuelling capability for our Armed Forces. Capable of carrying more, for longer, it has already begun flights to Afghanistan and will also refuel our frontline combat aircraft for decades to come.”
Speaking on the last operational mission of the TriStar on 24th March, Officer Commanding 216 Sqn, Wing Commander Peter Morgan said:
“For us this is a very sad occasion. We’ve been very proud of the TriStar over the past 30 years where it’s been involved in nearly every operation in both the air transport and air-to-air refuelling roles.
“Pretty much everyone in the military has been in a TriStar and after 30 years all the aircraft are still in service, it has an impeccable safety record and is working to the very end of its career.”
Commenting on the aircraft retirement, pilot Flight Lieutenant Liz Beauchamp said:
‘’It is sad to see a Squadron with such a long history come to its natural end, but the 216 spirit will carry on as my colleagues take up positions in other Squadrons at Brize Norton and around the RAF. It has been a pleasure to be a part of such a dedicated team’’
Her views were echoed by Master Aircrewman Ian Marshall, the retirement of the TriStar seeing the end of a 14 year association with the aircraft. He said:
“It’s the end of an era and I’m sad to see the TriStar go. I think it’s been a very good aircraft for the RAF.”
The TriStar’s duties have been taken over by the Voyager which now provides state-of-the-art air-to-air refuelling in support of the Quick Reaction Force that protects the UK and Falkland Island airspace 365 days a year.
The remaining four TriStar aircraft will leave RAF Brize Norton for the final time on 25th March, when they will depart to Bruntingthorpe Airfield, Leics for disposal.
Editor: Flt Lt Rachel McCulloch
Photographs: Sqn Ldr Dylan Eklund and Paul Crouch
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014