Mark Long always knew he wanted to be a pilot.
A married father-of-two, who lives in Lincolnshire, he was introduced to flying with frequent visits to both Duxford and Mildenhall Airshows, and always aspired to join the RAF.
Where it all began
“My family used to take me to airshows so my first interests were Lightning and Vulcan displays and I thought, ‘That appeals as a job’. When I was 17 I went to a careers office and said, ‘I want to be a pilot in the Air Force.’
Twelve years later, I found myself sat in the cockpit of a Typhoon. It really is like a dream come true for me.
I was fortunate enough to get a university sponsorship (through an RAF bursary at the University of Warwick). I went to university to study economics, almost as a back-up in case I wasn’t eligible to join the RAF and become a fast jet pilot.”
Joining the RAF
“From there I joined Initial Officer Training in 2003 and then went to fly the Tucano, where you get your wings, and from there on to the Hawk in 2005.
I was fortunate enough to stay on Anglesey for a few years (with 208(R) Sqn) as an instructor. I then moved on to the Harrier with 1(F) Sqn at RAF Cottismore for a couple of years and then on to Typhoon in 2012 with 11 Sqn at RAF Coningsby.”
Today, Mark is part of 29 (R) Sqn, based at Coningsby, where his primary role is to teach student pilots how to operate Typhoon.
“Any exercises are really enjoyable to go on and are thoroughly rewarding. Red Flag in the US stands out as one of my most memorable exercise deployments – it was the first time the Typhoon had gone out there as a frontline unit.”
Mark has also been involved in Quick Reaction Alert responsibilities in both the UK and South Atlantic.
This year's display
“My involvement in the displays stems from my background as a five-year-old watching the displays. I was given the opportunity as part of 29 (R) Sqn, which is the operational conversion unit which looks after the display and engineering of the aircraft. Taking on an instructional role offered me the opportunity to apply for the job.
“It is an incredible opportunity. My plan for the display this year is a real showcase for the performance of the Typhoon aircraft. So there will be some differences for entering manoeuvres, I’m looking at doing a slow-speed pass with a gear down into a looping manoeuvre, which is the first time that has been done to showcase really to everyone, whether it is a seaside resort or at an airfield, that the jet will loop for take-off.”
Read more about Flt Lt Mark Long's praise of Typhoon here - http://www.baesystems.com/en/article/raf-display-pilot-praises-typhoon-capability