216 Squadron - A potted history.
1. As originally formed from 16 Sqn RNAS, when the RAF formed all RNAS sqns had 200 added to their numberplates. Hence 16 Sqn RNAS became 216 Sqn RAF and has thus been known ever since as ‘two-sixteen'. As a result of this historical context, it is considered a deliberate insult to refer to the Sqn as ‘two-one-six'!
2. The Sqn's motto is ‘CCXVI – Dona Ferens' which translates as ‘216 – Bearing Gifts'. It seems somewhat incongruous that as originally part of the Independent Force, these ‘gifts' were originally bombs. Nowadays the Sqn regards the return of our passengers and injured personnel to their loved ones as their ‘gifts'.
3. 216 Sqn dropped the SAS on their first ever operational parachute jump in Nov 41 on Op SQUATTER. The raid didn't go particularly well with enemy resistance and adverse weather leading to 22 of the 60-strong force being killed or captured. This led to a change in tactics for the SAS and they formed the Long Range Desert Group who used fast, lightweight jeeps for subsequent airfield attacks.
4. For the first 38 years of its existence, 216 Sqn was stationed overseas. It returned to RAF Lyneham in 1955 to become the worlds first ever jet airliner sqn. As a VIP sqn, it flew many of the great and the good around the world, including HM The Queen a number of times.
5. The first OC of the Tristar era was Wg Cdr (now AVM Retd) Keith Filbey. Mr Filbey is Chairman of AirTanker and will be at the disbandment parade. He still holds 6 official FAI speed records for the fastest flights between BZZ-ASI, ASI-MPA, BZZ-MPA, MPA-ASI, ASI-BZZ and MPA-BZZ.
6. Nov 85 saw the first RAF use of ‘in-flight' entertainment with tape players and headphones issued to passengers on the Falkland's airbridge.
7. In 1989 AOC 1 Gp qualified as a Tristar line pilot. He even led a trail as a tanker captain to the Far East in 1990!
8. With an average monthly flying task of 800 hrs in the 90's, Op GRANBY saw this rate shoot up to an average of 1300 hrs per month. The most hrs flown was in Jan 91 when the Op GRANBY shooting war started; the Sqn flew 1549 hrs.
9. During Op GRANBY, 2 of the AAR aircraft were painted desert pink and known as ‘Pinky and Perky'. Knowing how long the AAR clearances for Voyager will take, in Jan 91 clearances were obtained for F14, F18, A4, A6, A7, Mirage 2000 and Mirage F1 in the space of a month! After the war, the Tristar led the Op GRANBY victory flypast over Mansion House.
10. In Jan 96 the Tristar flew HRH, The Princess Royal, to the Falklands.
11. It took until 97, 14 years after its introduction to service before all Tristar training was conducted in-house. Before then, the RAF used the BA simulator and instructors.
12. On 15 Apr 99 the first ever DFC was awarded to an RAF tanker pilot, Sqn Ldr Stu Mitchell, for having taken his aircraft and crew well inside hostile airspace during the Kosovo Campaign to refuel a fighter critically short of fuel.
13. After 9/11, a 216 Sqn Tristar was the only aircraft allowed to fly over the North Atlantic on 12 Sep 01 taking a high-level delegation to the US.
14. A 216 Sqn Tristar was the first Allied tanker aircraft into Afghanistan airspace under Op ENDURING FREEDOM.
15. The first passenger run into Afghanistan was on 27 Mar 02 into Kabul. Since then, the Squadron has flown 1642 airbridge sorties in Afghanistan, flying first to Kabul, then Kandahar and, since Mar 11, Bastion. This equates to some 16 million nautical miles, enough to fly around the world 640 times or to the moon and back 33 times. We have carried approximately 250,000 personnel to theatre and the same number home. On average, there were 200 aeromed patients per week ranging from walking wounded to full CCAST patients.
16. The Squadron has given away 187,000 cans of beer through our Beer for the Boys campaign and raised £116,000 which has been given to units to fund their homecoming parade.
17. 216 Sqn had the world record for the longest hot curry delivery flight – delivering a curry from the Beilash curry house in Carterton to the Falkland Islands.
With Thanks to Wg Cdr Pete Morgan - last OC of 216 Squadron