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Lt Will Thornton and Mike Thornton
Touchdown for Mike Thornton as he lands the Lynx with his Father
Lt Will Thornton Mike Thornton and CO 702 NAS Cdr Glyn Owen
Cdr Glyn Owen, Lt Will Thornton and Mike Thornton

FAA keeps it in the family

Published: 28 Mar 2014

Proud Father is flown by his newly qualified Son in a Lynx Helicopter at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton 40 years on from the start of his own flying career with the Royal Navy. 

Mike Thornton (65) , now retired from the Royal Navy, joined in 1972 when he was just 23 and fulfilled his dream of flying with the Navy when he got his Wings in 1974. His career has covered many aircraft types and he has used his valuable experience and skills gleaned over 40 years currently as Head of flying at Fleetlands. 

Lt Will Thornton (27), Mikes son received his Wings, after 5 years of training to qualify, on the Air Station just 3 weeks ago on 28 February 2014 at a Wings Parade attended by his Father. Following what Mike thought to be a routine visit to RNAS Yeovilton he has been taken to the skies by his Son! 

Mike Thornton, from the age of 10 growing up in Shropshire close to an airfield and watching aircraft flying over head knew there were three things he wanted to do he said “I wanted to join the Royal Navy, I wanted to fly and I wanted to go to the Antarctic. I have been very lucky and achieved  all three things” 

Mike started his career on a Wasp Squadron where he was embarked in HMS Galatea, HMS Lowestoft, and HMS Ryll. Mike added “we only had one engine failure with the Wasp…… only had one engine so we landed in a pub car park where we became local hero’s and the locals kept buying us beer. I think it was 5 pints before we were picked up!” 

Following this he joined the Wessex Squadron, 737 and from here went to HMS Endurance to fly in the Antarctic which is where all three aspirations of Mikes came together. He started flying Lynx in 1980 and arrived at 702 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) as the Warfare Instructor for two years before he joined 815 Front Line Squadron where he was in five Lynx Flights one of which was HMS Sirius deployed during the Falklands conflict. 

Leaving the flying world  for a few years as he resided at Dartmouth Mike returned to flying in 1993 where he flew Lynx up until he retired from the Royal Navy in 2006 taking up his position as Head of flying at Fleetlands, post maintenance test flying. 

Back at 702 NAS Squadron it hardly seems like 42 years on from the day that a fresh faced young ‘would be’ pilot joined the Royal Navy! Today carrying on in true family tradition Mike’s son, Will is now on 815 NAS. 

When asked what it was like to be flown by his Son Mike said “it was very professional and quite focused as flying with us was the Commanding Officer of 702 NAS, Commander Glynn Owen who knows both of us well. Between us there is a lot of experience. I was quite impressed really, he’s better than I am, In 2008 when he told me that he wanted to fly with the Royal Navy you could have knocked me over with a feather, I thought he’d go and do something sensible and earn some real money!” 

Will’s reply to his Father “it’s vocational and in your blood, when I got my Wings it was a mixture of excitement anticipation and relief but mostly excitement about what is now to come. I’m looking forward to getting out and doing the job which for me means shortly joining HMS Dragon to deploy to the South Atlantic. It is what I have spent 5 years waiting to do”. 

Will added “it’s been good fun to fly Dad; he is still qualified to fly so we had good chat and banter in the aircraft, and it takes playing football together on the football field when I was small to a whole new level”. 

Lt Will Thornton will eventually transition to the Royal Navy’s new cutting edge and highly capable Wildcat Helicopter in 2017 as he embarks on his career with the Fleet Air Arm to be globally deployed protecting our nation’s interests.


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