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FEATURE: Tip of the Spear – Flying a Modern-day Legend


On a mission over Afghanistan, I was talking to a British soldier in a ‘troops in contact’ situation and I could hear the bullets whizzing past. I said, ‘I’m 100 miles away.’ He replied, ‘then I’m dead.’ I told him, ‘the bomb will be with you in less than ten minutes.’ He went, ‘wow!’ and we managed to get there in time.” This incident was one of many where Wing Commander Ian Gale (now Air Commodore) and his squadron came to the aid of coalition forces. Gale’s career path – which led to him scorching across the Afghan sky at the controls of a Tornado, racing to assist troops – began in tranquil Rutland at RAF Cottesmore.

As a flight lieutenant, Gale flew a Tornado for the first time on November 11, 1991 at the Tri-national Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE), in an Italian jet with an instructor from the same country. The role of the multi-national unit was to teach aircrew from the UK, Italy and West Germany. There he learned how to fly and navigate the Tornado.

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Photo: Crown Copyright

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