The next chapter of RAF Lossiemouth’s booming future is ready to begin as Tornados touched down for the final time yesterday.
The fighter jets have been a fixture in Moray skies for more than two decades since moving to the region in 1993.
But with the planes being mothballed in two years, XV (Reserve) Squadron is being disbanded after a century of service to make way for new advanced technology.
A fourth fleet of Typhoons is scheduled to arrive in place of the Tornados with the first of the P-8 Poseidon marine patrol aircraft due to move up in 2019, bringing 400 extra personnel with them.
Yesterday, Group Captain Paul Godfrey admitted there were “mixed emotions” watching the Tornados park up after an emotional fly-past and a spectacular simulated airfield attack.
The station commander shook hands with each of the final five flight crews after they made their way down the steps carrying their helmets.
He said: “I was outside the other day and saw a Tornado in the circuit, the swing wings are really distinctive.
“It was really sad to know we’re not going to see them again here, but with the Poseidons and extra Typhoon squadron the capability here is on the up. It’s brilliant for RAF Lossiemouth.
“It’s an awful lot of work to get ready for the new squadrons but it’s the sort of work that we want to do, getting the base ready for more people to move to the area, it’s a win-win all-round for
The Tornados from XV (Reserve) Squadron took off from Lossiemouth yesterday morning to perform a farewell tour over bases at Leuchars, Tain and Aberdeen.
The jets then soared in formation down the length of the runway before splitting off into smaller attack run drills.
Families and friends were waiting on the apron at the air base after they landed for the last time.
Pilots and weapons service officers saluted children, many wearing flight suits, from the cockpit who were waving at the Top Gun crews.
Dozens of aviation enthusiasts eager to catch a glimpse of the distinctive jets lined the fences around the base.
The squadron will be disbanded following a parade at the base at the end of the month before the planes are flown to RAF Marham in Norfolk. The last Tornado will be withdrawn from RAF service in 2019.
Officer commanding XV Squadron, Wing Commander Paul Froome, said the flight crews under his command were some of the most experienced in the RAF.
The 10 flight crews have a combined total of 38,500 flying hours, amounting to more than four years continuously in the air.
Wg Cdr Froome said: “I’ve obviously known this day was coming for about two years – we’ve been building up to it.
“It’s been an emotional and sad day for me as commander of the squadron but I’m amazingly proud of the team that has been behind me.
“It was nice to be able to fly past the ranges that have supported us and the reaction we got from those people was superb.”
XV (Reserve) Squadron is the operational conversion unit for Tornados responsible for specialist training for pilots on the planes.
The squadron was formed in Farnborough in 1915 and initially ran bombing raids and reconnaissance from France to the Western Front in World War I.
It flew Lancasters during World War II and its Tornados took part in the Gulf War in 1991 before they moved to Lossiemouth two years later.
Wg Cdr Froome added: “The Tornados are actually really easy to fly. They are built from a very stable platform and don’t need a lot of work at the controls. They’re a pleasure to fly.”