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Flying low over RNAS Yeovilton this was the last time anyone there would see naval aviators from a naval air squadron fl ying a jet for a decade. The Harriers of 800 Naval Air Squadron – which only recently stood-up again after a lengthy absence – paid a farewell visit to the Somerset air station. For a quarter of the century, as far as

IF EVER there’s a moment to bring one of Britain’s busiest airfi elds to a grinding halt it is this.

any naval aviator was concerned, Yeovilton was ‘home of the Harrier’ (a tag it only lost when the Fleet Air Arm fl iers moved in with the RAF in Cottesmore and Wittering a few years ago). Four jets – three GR9s, one two-seat trainer – touched down on the hallowed Yeovilton tarmac, their pilots bade farewell to long-standing comrades in arms, then climbed back into their cockpits to perform two trademark manoeuvres – the 360-degree ‘pirouette’ followed by a bow to the control tower. Watching was Cdr Danny Stembridge


– Yeovilton’s Executive Offi cer and the man earmarked to take over 800 NAS until the jump jets were axed under October’s defence review. “I’ve spent the last 20 years fl ying, predominantly from the sea,” he said. “To think that for the fi rst time in 100 years we are not going to be able to do that is sad. The country is losing its ability to project air power at a time and place of its choosing.” The Harrier fl eet is being retired seven

years ahead of schedule; its successor, the Joint Strike Fighter, won’t appear on the scene till the end of the decade – although the carriers they will operate from, HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, are due to enter service from the middle of the decade.

fi nal fl ight next month before formally decommissioning in the new year. Picture: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherstone, RNAS Yeovilton

diffi culties in the past and risen to the challenges, and we will do it again with the Joint Strike Fighter,” said 800’s fi nal CO Cdr Dave ‘Tinsel’ Lindsay. As a Harrier man through-and-through, the last appearance on ‘home turf’ left him distinctly moved. “Today is very emotional – Yeovilton is our spiritual homeland. The Harrier is an iconic aircraft. It can be a real handful sometimes but it is a pilot’s aircraft. No other aircraft can do what it can do.” His squadron is due to make its

“The Fleet Air Arm has overcome

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