Wednesday 10th March 2021
Flying instructor Squadron Leader Andy Tagg has retired from regular duties at Royal Air Force Wittering after thirty-five years of service to Queen and country.
Squadron Leader Tagg’s remarkable career began in 1986 when he joined up as non-commissioned aircrew, but the RAF was in his DNA long before he chose to apply. His father had joined as a national serviceman in 1954 and chose to remain until 1966, working first as an air traffic controller and then as a photographer.
The grammar school system did not provide the environment needed for Andy’s innate abilities to flourish. Nonetheless, his ambition was to become a pilot and in 1990 he began initial officer training at Royal Air Force College Cranwell. At the time, Andy did not consider the Harrier as a possibility, but it was the aircraft he was destined for.
Squadron Leader Tagg said:
“I was just coming to the end of my weapons training at RAF Chivenor and had put down the Jaguar as my choice on the wish-list. One of the staff came to me and said I should consider the Harrier, so that’s what I put down and that’s what I ended up flying.”
In the coming years Andy would pilot the Harrier in northern-Iraq on Operation Northern Watch enforcing the no-fly zones after Gulf War I, and in the Balkans, flying from Gioia del Colle in southern Italy. It is also one of the four aircraft on which he would become a Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI).
Squadron Leader Tagg describes QFI as his stock trade. Over the years he has instructed on the Hawk, Tucano, Harrier and latterly the Grob Tutor. His tour as a Tucano instructor at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire remains the defining period in his career.
“There have been parts to like in every job I’ve done, but my first QFI tour was at Linton. It was very busy, there was lots of flying, the students were great. It was the building block of where I am now and the foundation of what I became.”
Although Andy retires from RAF Wittering, his association with the Cambridgeshire Station predates his joining the Service having first arrived as an air cadet in 1982 for the summer camps. He returned as a Harrier pilot and then came back again in 2017 to command No 115 Squadron, which teaches already qualified pilots to become instructors on the Grob Tutor aircraft.
Retirement from regular service, however, does not mean the end of Squadron Leader Tagg’s flying career. After a short break, Andy will return to No 115 Squadron as a full-time reservist in the rank of Flight Lieutenant and continue as a QFI.
“As a Squadron Leader you’re not only instructing, you have an entire squadron to manage and everything that goes with it. It’s a great job, but as a Flight Lieutenant I’ll be able just to concentrate on the instructing, which I’m really looking forward to.” Group Captain Jo Lincoln said: “First of all, we have to thank Squadron Leader Tagg for his enormous contribution to Defence over the years. There are hundreds of pilots who owe their flying careers to Andy’s skilled tuition. Here at Wittering he has taken the reins in our Heritage Centre and worked very hard to continue the excellent work of preserving our aviation history, and we wish him every success in his new role at 115 Squadron.”
Top image: Squadron Leader Rich Kellet (left) takes over 115 Squadron from Squadron Leader Andy Tagg (right). Image by SAC Jack Welson.