Royal Navy pilot from Portsmouth makes aviation history in new test jet

A NAVAL pilot has made history after becoming the first person to earn his ‘wings’ in the military’s new fast-jet trainer.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 12:08 pm
Updated Monday, 7th December 2020, 1:59 pm

A year ago, Lieutenant Lewis Phillips became the first trainee pilot to fly solo in a Texan and now he is the first Fleet Air Arm flier to earn his Wings in the aircraft.

The 30-year-old aviator from Portsmouth received the prestigious emblem of a qualified pilot after a year of training at Anglesey's RAF Valley in the Texan T1.

First in classrooms and simulators, and then the Texan's cockpit, he learned the fundamentals of handling a jet-engine aircraft.

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This included formation flying, low-level navigation, and coping with all weather conditions.

Lt Phillips said he was ‘honoured’ to be the first Royal Navy pilot to graduate with Wings on the Texan T1.

‘It certainly isn't lost on me that I wear the same uniform – and now the same Wings – as all those who came before me,’ he said.

Image of the new Texan trainer aircraft, which entered service this year (2019) with the Royal Air Force.

The Texan T1 aircraft replaced the analogue Tucano, which had served fast-jet pilots for 30 years, but was declared obsolete due to today’s fully-digital jets and helicopters.

With a fully digitised cockpit, the Texan is capable of reaching top speeds of more than 360mph and climb as high as 31,000ft.

This means students have to get used to wearing a G-suit to counter the effects of gravity, an immersion suit in case the Texan has to ditch and an oxygen mask rather than breathing normally.

‘Having a ‘glass’ cockpit is also a huge benefit and step change in training, allowing instructors to deliver electronic warfare threats we need to defend against and make a sortie feel a lot more realistic,’ Lt Lewis added.

Lieutenant Commander Dave Bouyac, left, presents Lieutenant Lewis Phillips with his 'wings', after becoming the first to graduate using a new naval training jet.

Previously, Lt Phillips spent nine years as an air traffic control officer for the navy before he swapped the control tower for the cockpit.

As part of an exchange programme with the US, Lt Phillips will get his first jet experience in a T45 Goshawk trainer, the US Navy’s counterpart to the Hawk.

He will then move onto the F-18 Super Hornet, the mainstay of combat operations on America’s carrier fleet.

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