Learning to fly the Lightning

Learning to fly the Mach 2 fighter fulfilled a boyhood dream for former RAF pilot Ian Black. He relates a wealth of vivid memories, coupled with a learning curve “as steep as Ben Nevis”, to Aviation News.

New pilots on the Lightning Training Flight were given 45 hours of fight time before being posted to a frontline squadron.
All photos via Ian Black

The English Electric Lightning was in service from 1960 to 1988, and from inception it was always THE aircraft to fly. Indeed, it was not until the introduction of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier in 1968 that the crème of the RAF’s elite fighter pilots had a challenge that could equal flying the single-seat air defence aircraft. Few if any Lightning pilots would say they didn’t want to be selected for the Mach 2 fighter, and those who did soon learned that once bitten by the Lightning bug it was hard to ignore. Always a challenge to fly, the Lightning was at the pinnacle of human achievement in terms of mental capacity of handling and operating a Mach 2 fighter. So, just what did it take to become a Lightning fighter pilot?

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