Flt Lt Owczarkowski in a series of manoeuvres at the Eastbourne and Weston Super Mare.

Thursday 23rd January 2020

The Royal Air Force Tutor Display Team Pilot for the 2020 season is Flight Lieutenant Owczarkowski of 115 Squadron at RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire.

University Air Squadrons (UAS) offer undergraduates a unique chance to sample RAF life and their main role is to attract ambitious and intelligent students into a career within the RAF’s regular or reserve forces. All 15 teach elementary flying training to their students in the Grob 115E Tutor aircraft.

Flt Lt Owczarkowski was first appointed in 2019 and 2020 is his second year as the Tutor display pilot. He said:

“The Tutor Display promotes the University Air Squadrons, mainly we go to airshows wherever there is a university or a Squadron nearby, but it’s actually a bit wider than that.”

Only the most experienced and well-qualified pilots are chosen for this job. Flt Lt Owczarkowski has been a pilot for 22 years and previously flew Nimrods from RAF Kinloss in Scotland. Today he is an instructor, teaching already qualified pilots to become instructors on the Grob Tutor.

Safety is everything in display flying. There are two display routines; a full sequence, and a flat sequence if conditions are good but cloud is lower. These sequences are rehearsed more than 20 times before Public Display Authority is given.

Flt Lt ‘SKI’ looks forward to a new year of tutor displays.

Flt Lt Owczarkowski said:

“All the rehearsals are supervised and recorded on video. We have full crash cover and nobody else uses the airspace or the airfield during the routine. More than that, we actually simulate emergencies, so that we are as prepared as we can be if the unexpected happens.”

It is not just a question of experience and qualification. Flt Lt Owczarkowski has been subjected to the full centrifuge test at RAF College Cranwell, experiencing +5.5g, and completed the pool training needed to survive a landing in the water.  

32 displays are scheduled for 2020, including the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford and a first display at the Farnborough International Airshow. Combined with the other public displays, it is expected that the Tutor Display Team will be seen by around 2 million people this year.

The display itself is stunning. With a skilled pilot, the Grob Tutor is a highly manoeuvrable and agile aeroplane. The sequence of turns, loops and rolls, combined with the sound of the engine, feel both modern and nostalgic.

No 6 Flying Training School (6FTS) is based at RAF College Cranwell and manages all 15 UAS and the Tutor Display Team.

6FTS is commanded by Group Captain Howard Edwards. He said:

“We’re very fortunate to have Neil as our pilot for 2020. It’s going to be a busy and demanding year. At the airshows and displays we reach out to the next generation of the RAF, and for a captivating display you need an experienced pilot with a capable pair of hands at the controls.”

Group Captain Jo Lincoln is the Station Commander at RAF Wittering. She said:

“The Tutor Display Team is an important part of the flying mix here at RAF Wittering, because it complements the work of the University Air Squadrons in attracting the next generation of RAF personnel. For me it’s all about the safe environment that my Operations Wing provides to our flying squadrons, making this Station a great place to learn to fly.”

Top image: Flt Lt Owczarkowski in a series of manoeuvres at the Eastbourne and Weston Super Mare.

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