Flt Lt Adam O’Hare makes no bones about it - when it comes to RAF Typhoon display flying, he’s standing on the shoulders of giants. His job for 2022 will be to try to come up with something that adds to an awesome track record.
So when asked which of the past displays he will be drawing inspiration from, he responds with a little chuckle and shake of the head.
“The short answer is: all of them,” he says. “Most people would agree that all the previous Typhoon displays have been incredible. Each display pilot puts their own unique touch on it, and that’s what I’ll try and do.
“Unfortunately for me the past display pilots have set the bar incredibly high. It definitely feels like some tough acts to follow. But that’s the challenge. Of course, there are only so many maneuvers the Typhoon is allowed to display but it’s my job to come up with something different.”
It’s that desire to do something different, to challenge himself, that spurred Adam on to applying for the coveted display pilot role. He says that not only is it a box that he hasn’t yet checked but it also represents the culmination of his childhood dream.
“First, I wanted to become a fighter pilot. Then after I achieved that, I wanted to put all my training to effective use. I have since performed numerous missions in Syria and Iraq, carried out Baltic Air Policing, and been on middle of the night, no-notice scrambles defending UK airspace on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). I have ticked all those boxes and have a real sense of achievement.
“Now in my role as a QFI on 29 Sqn I instill all that knowledge, experience and training into our new undergraduates. I've been doing that for two years and have reached my A2 instructor category, which is generally the highest we go to. My next challenge is display flying. It's going into the unknown. I’m looking forward to a sense of achievement at the end of next year when we've had a successful season.”
He’s clearly looking forward to a different - if physically and mentally punishing - challenge. He describes it as trying to reach the level of flying excellence and professionalism required to be able to perform a safe and spectacular display time and time again - wherever the venue, whatever the weather challenge.
Out of the cockpit, he’s excited by the prospect of being the Typhoon ambassador in front of sponsors, industry partners and fans.
“I’m looking forward to being able to meet young enthusiasts - the equivalent of the 14-year-old me - and hopefully encouraging them in the same way I was to follow their dreams. I want to be able to inspire people in whatever way that is. Whether it's to join the military, go into industry or to study science, engineering, maths or technology. That’s what I'm looking forward to.”
A native of Northern Ireland, Adam says he has been fascinated by aircraft and engineering for as long as he can recall. He joined the Air Cadets as a 13-year-old and saw his first air show a year later at the Royal Internation Air Tattoo.
“It was like nothing I had ever seen before. There were all sorts of jets that until then I’d only ever seen in magazines or on TV. The chance to get up close to those fighter jets and see them display had me absolutely mesmerised. It was a kid in a candy store moment. That's when it clicked that this is the job for me and something I wanted to do.”
Through the Air Cadets, Adam started to do a lot of flying and became a gliding instructor, gaining experience that cemented the idea that he wanted to make flying his career. He dropped out of university when a chance to join the RAF came up, leading to an awkward conversation with his mum. But it’s a decision he has never regretted.
And, hundreds of flying hours later, he can clearly recall the day he enjoyed his first Typhoon flight.
“I was in the back seat and at the end of the runway the instructor asked, ‘Are you ready?’ I just sort of laughed in reply saying, ‘Sure. Let's give it a go.’ And then the sensation…well, it was just a total sensory overload. As he opened the throttles I was rammed into the back of my seat. I thought there was something wrong with my kit because it was a feeling I'd never had before. The sheer acceleration of Typhoon. That was a real smile on my face moment.
“My first solo flight was on another level. I recall looking around a single seat cockpit, realising that it was just me strapped to a Typhoon. It's a memory I'll never forget.”
Since then, he has got to know Typhoon incredibly well. He describes it as a sensational aircraft with performance, maneuverability and thrust at eye-watering levels.
He says: “Typhoon has developed into a world-leading combat platform. It performs admirably in all domains. You can take the fight directly to the enemy, wherever that is, and whatever the mission or role. Its swing role capability means we have a tool for every job.
“Having used the Typhoon both on operations abroad and on QRA launches in the UK I have total confidence about the reliability that the Typhoon gives me every time I ask it. I’d say it’s a great aircraft.”
It’s those performance characteristics that make it such an air show crowd-pleaser.
“There are very few jets at air shows that can take off, go straight into a vertical climb, and then continue to accelerate. It’s truly unmatched. If you couple that with its agility and its ability to sustain 9G and continue to accelerate in turns - as painful as that is for the pilot - it puts a smile on everyone’s face on the ground.”
So, if we’re lucky enough to catch Adam’s display next summer, what can we expect?
“I want to take it to maximum possible limit — obviously we’re governed by display rules - and I want to make sure I put smiles on everyone’s faces. I know that everyone likes to have that rumble in their chest when they feel the reheat kick in and, at those high-performance moments, I’ll be doing my best to keep the back end of the jet pointed towards the crowd. That way they will get a real sense of the raw acceleration and power from the two big engines.”