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Veteran RN and RAF pilot brothers take to skies together

3 October 2023
When they said ‘take your brother for a quick ride’, is this what you had in mind?

As the Welsh landscape whizzes by in a blur, Royal Navy Reservist Lieutenant Commander Tim Taylor shares a cockpit with his brother Paul – known as Giz – a pilot in the RAF.

Their chariot of choice is the turbo-prop Texan T1 trainer – not especially fast by fighter pilot standards (top speed 316kts, compared with an F-35 Lightning (1,066kts) or a Typhoon (1,147kts) – but what a rush: jinking, twisting and turning as low as 250ft, performing aerobatic loops and rolling manoeuvers with G Forces up to six times the force of gravity – mentally and physically demanding, but something all RAF and Fleet Air Arm fixed-wing pilots must contend with.

And both Taylor brothers should know – given both their experience and their current roles.

In a varied career in first the RAF, then the Fleet Air Arm Tim has nearly 40 years’ experience in the cockpit – including Tornado F3 in 25(F) Squadron, notably on Op Granby / Desert Shield (Gulf War I) and on Op Deny Flight over the former Yugoslavia with 29(F) Squadron.

He flew Sea Harriers ‘on loan’ from the RAF to 899, 800 and 801 Naval Air Squadrons and, seeing the light, switched to the Fleet Air Arm in 1999 after 15 years with the Air Force.

And he’s stayed in naval aviation ever since – although since 2003 as a reservist with the air branch (recently renamed HMS Pegasus).

When not assessing whether would-be aviators possess the ‘right stuff’ to serve as pilots or observers via 727 Naval Air Squadron, the grading unit based at RNAS Yeovilton.

His younger brother is a flight lieutenant based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, passing on his experience as a Qualified Flying Instructor on 72 Squadron flying the Texan T1.

“It was fantastic to fly with Giz again - our first turbo-prop flight together,” said Tim. “Low-level flying through Wales, then some aerobatics, what a great experience!

“This was an extremely rewarding, exciting and privileged opportunity to see and experience the flying training system and aircraft used by future RN fast-jet pilots.

“We only achieved this through the great support from HMS Pegasus and RAF Valley. Many thanks to all involved.”

In his civilian career Tim flies corporate jets with ACASS Ireland based at Farnborough. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve to gain an insight into the Military Flying Training System and experience flying the Texan T1 turbo-prop basic fast jet training aircraft.

After the Sea Harrier was retired he switched to the Hawk with 736 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose and, since 2015, the Grob Tutor with 727 NAS.

The Taylors have shared cockpits before: in a Tornado F3, Sea Harrier, Hawk and a handful of civilian aircraft.

“We’ve now flown together in seven different aircraft types. I’m not sure how many other brothers have managed this,” Tim added.

There’s the chance to make in eight next month, all being well clambering into the cockpit of a vintage Hawker Hunter under the auspices of Military Registered Civil Owned Aircraft (MRCOA) auspices. With Paul leaving the RAF in the near future, it possibly makes this their last chance to fly together.

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