XI Squadron Reunion 2005 Feature Report
Saturday 11th June
XI(F) Squadron have a long and distinguished history. The 11th of June 2005 marked another point in their history with the holding of their final squadron reunion whilst equipped with the Tornado F3 before disbanding later this year and reforming in the not too distant future as a Typhoon squadron. Before this event there was the exciting prospect of a diamond nine consisting of purely XI Squadron Tornado F3 jets as part of an event to pay tribute to both current and past servers with this famous squadron.
reports from XI(F) Squadron's final Tornado fling. All photography by the author.
On static display there was also a insight into the future of this histroic squadron with a brand new Eurofighter Typhoon F2 on static showing XI(F) Squadrons future mount. Other static aircraft displayed on the base were a Vampire, Javelin and EE Lightning, types which were all operated in the course of XI(F) Squadrons past. Along with these on static display were an Apache,Chinook,Bae 125 and two other 56(R) Squadron Tornado F3s.
Being that this was the final XI(F) squadron reunion with the squadron still operating the Tornado F3 the highlight of the day was always going to be the mass flypast. However before this there was also the Tornado F3 display from 56(R) Squadron. This also had some connection to XI(F) Squadron as Leuchars was also the base that XI(F) reformed at following a long absence from the UK. Tornado F3 Display Pilot Flight Lieutenant Richard Moyes 'Dicko' and his navigator Flight Lieutenant Gareth Littlechild 'Gaz' showcased many of the talents of the Tornado which often make it a favourite with the pilots who operate it. However the display was truncated mid-way through as the F3 aborted the display due to problems with a suspected fuel leak. Sensibly the display was aborted and the F3 landed safely followed by emergency vehicles.
A representation of the past of XI(F) was also seen in the air in the shape of the BBMF Hurricane. This performed a sprightly display before directly departing out to the west following display completion. The sound of a Hurricane over the base which normally reverberates to the roar of jet engines was something very enjoyable and made a brief, welcome change. There was also a spitfire present and down to display however this unfortunately went U/S in the morning before the flying began which was a shame as seeing any warbird over Leeming is always a great treat.
Also based at Leeming are BAe Hawk T1s of 100 Squadron and Grob Tutor T1s of the Northumbria UAS. Both of these types were also seen in the small flying display with the resident Hawk performing it's usual efficient, well executed rolling display whilst the Tutor from RAF Church Fenton amazed people with it's seemingly carefree spinning ability, certainly a very interesting display to watch from such a small machine.
Following the Hawk T1 display from resident 100 Squadron it was time for the much anticipated nine ship F3 formation to begin. First of all though there was the small matter of all nine (and one spare) Tornado taking off. A very noisy and afterburner fuelled few minutes followed as the jets took off to formate. Prior to this there had only been one prior rehearsal of this formation by the F3s which was on Thursday the 9th just a couple of days prior so it was even more impressive when the formation of nine F3s was seen approaching from the North of the airbase in ranks of three with the number 10, presumably a photo ship peeling off up to higher altitude as the formation passed over the airbase. The lead Tornado F3 ZE887 also carried special tail markings which celebrate 90 years of XI(F) Squadron. What a wonderful sound the formation was as well. This was followed by a series of passes by a four ship, two pairs and finally some high power breaks to land which were loudly and neatly excecuted in full swept wing and afterburner engaged. Well done XI(F) Squadron with that fantastic formation work.