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February 1990 – The Squadron is at Gutersloh flying the Harrier GR3

Flt Lt Steve Forward has now taken over the job of looking after the Squadron F540, and sending us our quarterly news from Gutersloh. Here is his first dispatch.

Much has happened on the Squadron since the last issue in November. Five new pilots have arrived – the last to complete the Harrier GR3 OCU course. Three of these are JPs (Junior Pilots) proper and the other two, Capt Larry Ching and Flt Lt Marcus de Ferranti, have re-roled from other aircraft. Larry Ching is taking over as USAF exchange officer from Steve Deaux, who returns to the States in April. Marcus used to be a Jaguar man but has now seen the light, and, in between selling shares in his company, has managed to complete about half of the combat-ready work-up.

Harrier GR3 at low-level over Germany

In December the Squadron hosted the return visit of 421 Squadron, flying Canadian CF18s. Bad weather curtailed much of the planned flying entertainment, however, we more than made up for this by entertaining ourselves elsewhere (in the Keller Bar). Quite a few memorable games of “Crud” were played, unfortunately the Canadians seem to have played the game before and won most of them!

For a brief period the Squadron lost all of its T4 aircraft to the newly-formed Station T4 Flight. The idea was that 3 (?) Squadron and us would demand T4s as required from a centrally-run and maintained fleet. A good idea in theory, but in practice totally unworkable because of the amount of notice required to get the aircraft. Consequently, after about two weeks, everything reverted back to the old system, much to the relief of the programmers!

Several Rangers have been flown to various “exotic” places in these last three months. A team of three aircraft deployed to Cyprus for a weekend in December to escape the cold at Gutersloh. By fair means or foul, they managed to get delayed for a day – obviously finding it hard to drag themselves away from the Kokinelli. Another team set off for Gibraltar in January, staging via Nice on the way down and Portugal on the way back. Again, by some quirk of fate, they were delayed in Portugal by heavy rain and had to spend an extra night in a 5 Star hotel.

Most of the flying has been directed towards getting the new pilots combat-ready. However, we have recently instigated the “Friday morning balbo” tradition so that the more experienced boys can get some worthwhile, more demanding flying at least once a week. Several 8 and 12 ship formations have been launched on the unsuspecting low flying areas, much to the amusement of those watching on the sidelines as the boys, in true Harrier style, rush around with their hair on fire carrying out re-re-plans five minutes before walking!

A date for the diary is 22/23 June when we will be hosting an all-ranks Reunion to celebrate the end of the GR3 after twenty years of Squadron service. All ex- members of the Squadron are invited of course, and we hope to make it a big occasion. The contact point at the Squadron is Flt Lt Steve Newbold. Plans at the moment include having an “Open” day on Saturday with a marquee on the Squadron serving food and drink. Hopefully, we will also have the Squadron balloon flying during the weekend – the news on this is that it is already made and just requires flight testing. Unfortunately high winds in the UK these past few months have meant that the testing cannot be carried out at present.