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Final Suffolk outing for Tornado aircraft after 40 years

More than 100 gathered at RAF Honington on Wednesday to see the celebrated Panavia Tornado aircraft fly for the final time.

Three of the combat planes passed over the base near Bury St Edmunds in formation as part of a tour to celebrate its four decades of service.

The Tornado is being retired this week, having been used in conflicts in Syria, Kosovo and Iraq since coming into Royal Air Force service in 1979.

Wing Commander Andy Tucker, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, felt ‘at one’ with the plane which he flew on three tours during his 32 years with the RAF, from where he retired in 2012.

“For 40 years it has been the backbone of the RAF,” he said. “I always say the cockpit of the Tornado was my office. When you’re strapped in, man and machine become one. It has been a great aircraft to fly and it has done a grand job more than 40 years.

“I’m a little bit sad, but it has been an incredible aircraft and it deserves retirement now. It is all credit to the aircrew and engineers involved.”

RAF Honington was one of 16 airbases the planes flew over, on the second of three days of the farewell tour.

The fourth and final generation of the Tornado saw action for the last time in January and will be largely replaced by the Typhoon model and F35 Lightning II, which has recently been added to RAF Marham.

Tornadoes flying over RAF Honington from RAF Marham
Tornadoes flying over RAF Honington from RAF Marham

Mark Fixter, station engagement officer, said: “It’s a very big day for Honington. It’s closing a lot of history off - with the fact it was the first operational Tornado base.

“Today we want to honour as many places as possible that have a connection with the Tornado. We are very lucky.”

See more pictures from the fly-past in this week's Bury Free Press (out Friday).

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