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Published: 01 Aug 2018

TODAY Commander (Cdr) Nathan Gray swapped his Lightning for Linen, catapulted back in time by 80 years taking a seat in the Fleet Air Arm oldest flying aircraft.


Cdr Gray is a Pilot in the Royal Navy (RN) and will be the first RN Test Pilot to land the F-35B Lightening Force fifth generation strike fighter on board HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH later this year.


Today however was all about the Fleet Air Arm in the beginning, or certainly over 80 years ago when the Fairey Swordfish, a biplane torpedo bomber made of Irish Linen came into service with the Fleet Air Arm, perfect for landing on our small carriers. A far cry from today’s F-35s.


Cdr Nathan Gray said;


We learn from our past to take into the future. Back in the day the Swordfish was cutting edge and their test pilots would work out what was the most advanced way to have the advantage on the enemy thinking about it now 80 years on we look back on the Swordfish and see it in its historic state, just as 50 years from now our children’s children will see the F35. It’s important to know where you came from and to know what you’ve got ahead of you.


Today makes me personally proud to be part of the Royal Navy. To touch, to fly and to feel this aircraft, the foundation on which the Fleet Air Arm has been built is a privilege to be honest.


Being given the responsibility of operating this fifth-generation aircraft on board the only aircraft carrier purpose built for the F35 for the first time in history, will be a huge privilege.”


As Cdr Gray lifted in the only flying Mk1 Swordfish in the world it is difficult to ignore the fact that this once was cutting edge and is now flying a Test Pilot who will soon take his own place in history at the cutting edge!


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