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Flight Lt BEN POLWIN, Hawk T2 Role Demo pilot

Portsmouth-born Flight Lieutenant Ben Polwin dreamt of being a pilot for as long as he can remember. Here he recaps his career so far and explains the idea behind the new display team...
Flight Lt. Ben Polwin and Flight Lt. Toby Keeley, Ninja 1 and Ninja 2

Intro To Flight Lt. Ben Polwin...

Now part of the Number 4 Training School (4 FTS) based at RAF Valley, Anglesey, he lives at Valley with his wife Sophie. His hobbies include DIY and cycling.

The 2015 Royal International Air Tattoo marked the inaugural display for the Hawk T2 Role Demo where Ben, known as Ninja one, flies alongside Flight Lt Toby Keeley (Ninja two).

Joining the RAF...

“I left school and really, really wanted to fly. I was in the Air Cadets from as young as I could be, got a Royal Air Force Scholarship and took up flying from there.

I went to college, got the grades I needed to and then joined straight from college. I am what they call a direct entrant, so once I joined in 2003 as pilot, I went through officer training, flying training and eventually ended up flying the Tornado GR4 at Marham on operations and exercises all over the world - and then became a Hawk T2 pilot.

The Hawk T2 in action

Other Roles...

The Tornado GR4 is very busy operationally, so I deployed to Afghanistan and laterly I was involved in operations over Libya, and also training exercises all over the world - big ones like the Red Flag exercise in the United States.

There’s excitement and responsibility of a very different type when comparing that to display flying.

On deployment for instance, operating out of Afghanistan, the responsibility was enormous. Any mistake on our side would obviously be extremely costly and devastating. The responsibility is enormous.

Here obviously we are representing the Royal Air Force, representing our squadron, our aircraft in front of hundreds of thousands of people which is, again, an enormous responsibility, but of a very different kind.

The Hawk T2 Role Demo...

We are aiming to demonstrate what we train pilots to do in advanced jet training before they transition to front-line aircraft.

The sequence starts by demonstrating some general handling and close formation. We then move to a more tactical formation and simulate self-defence techniques against threats from the ground.

As we move into the more advanced phases of the course, we show some air combat manoeuvres and finish with an airfield attack.

We started thinking about what we were going to demonstrate when we were both selected back in November 2014.

We always knew we wanted to tell the story of advanced jet training and so a large extent of the sequence wrote itself.

We have been working all the preparations for the 2015 Hawk T2 Role Demo around our primary role of training combat pilots.

Team Ninja's fiery display at RIAT 2015

First Time Out...

“It was great. Obviously we were anxious to get going and do our first one, but once we had done it, it was a good feeling. We did it right and safely and we are set for the season.

Everyone has been generally very positive about it so far, but we are going to get some more feedback and if anyone suggests changes, we will look at that for next year.

There are seven weekends in total, it is relatively short as a display season goes, obviously it is the first time Hawk T2 has been out on the circuit so we are entering the display world gently and there may be a little bit more next year.

But for instance the week after RIAT we are at Sunderland doing the same again."