All smiles – and why shouldn’t Lt Lucas Harrisson be delighted after his first solo flight.
Even more so as the junior officer became the first ever Royal Navy student to fly the military’s new trainer on his own.
This is the Grob Prefect, which has replaced the Tutor as the aircraft of choice for teaching future pilots and observers the fundamentals of flight.
It’s more powerful than its predecessor (turboprop not piston) and its cockpit is ‘digital’ – no dials, buttons and knobs, just display screens – mirroring the Fleet Air Arm’s front-line aircraft.
Lucas is the first RN flier to go through the new UK Military Flying Training System. He’s actually being instructed by 674 Sqn Army Air Corps – it shares training duties at RAF Barkston Heath in Lincolnshire with 703 NAS (both squadrons train hopeful aviators from all three Services.)
When 674’s Officer Commanding Maj Mark Beard AAC was satisfied his naval student had reached the required standard, he sent Lucas off on his first solo flight: a five-minute sortie consisting of a single circuit of the airfield, which lies about six miles south of RAF Cranwell.
Take off power set. Brakes released. And the Grob Prefect galloped down Runway 06 at RAF Barkston Heath before leaping into the air.
“It was a real honour to be one of the first students to be sent solo in the Prefect. The aircraft is an absolute pleasure to fly, it feels very intuitive and handles superbly,” said Lucas, a former warfare officer who’s specialised as aircrew.
The majority of his course mates were also sent aloft on their first solo flights the same week, marking a significant milestone in elementary flying training and the development of the UK MFTS as a whole.
From Barkston Heath successful pilots move on to RAF Linton-on-Ouse if they’re chosen for the fast jet world, or RAF Shawbury for helicopters, while observers make for Culdrose where 750 NAS teach the basics of 21st Century aerial warfare at sea.