A Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant has become the first pilot in the world to reach 2,000 flying hours on the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Flight Lieutenant Richard Watts, 55, achieved this milestone on a training sortie in a Typhoon from 29(Reserve) Squadron at RAF Coningsby.
Following the flight, he taxied back in style through a stunning arc of water in a salute to his achievement.
He was met at the aircraft steps by the Typhoon Force Commander, Air Commodore Ian Duguid and RAF Coningsby Station Commander, Group Captain Jez Attridge, who presented him with his bespoke 2000 hours flying patch.
Flt Lt Watts’s first exposure to military aviation was when his father took him to the 1966 Farnborough Air Show at the age of 6.
“I was particularly impressed by the Phantom, which I would go on to fly for real 20 years later,” he said.
His love for flying was cemented during his time attending the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at Maidstone Grammar School, where he was fortunate enough to receive a Flying Scholarship.
Following this, he attended Bristol University, and soon became a keen member of the University Air Squadron (UAS). He joined the RAF in March 1983 and, three years later, was given the opportunity to fulfil his childhood dream when he was posted to 43(Fighter) Squadron at RAF Leuchars to fly Phantoms, clocking up nearly 700 hours.
In 1989, he transferred to the Tornado F3 where, over the course of more than 15 years, he served on 5, 25, 29, 56 and 229 Squadrons.
He served five tours on Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the No-Fly-Zone over Southern Iraq, as well as numerous detachments to the Falkland Islands.
Incredibly, he also amassed more than 2,000 hours on the Tornado F3, putting him in a very unique club of fighter pilots who have achieved this feat on two different aircraft types.
Flt Lt Watts transferred to the Typhoon in 2005, where he has served as an Instructor Pilot on 29 Squadron for the last 11 years, making him the most experienced Typhoon Instructor Pilot in the world.
Reflecting after his record achieving flight, he said: “I have been tremendously fortunate to have been involved with the Typhoon fleet since its introduction into RAF service.
“It has been a privilege to observe at close-hand its development into the world-class aircraft that it is today.”