RAF Coningsby's new display pilot fulfils a '˜life-Long' ambition

A new pilot has realised his life-long ambition and joined RAF Coningsby's display team.

Portraits of Flt Lt Mark Long, the 2016 Typhoon Display Pilot from 29(R) Sqn. The photos were taken in conjunction with others for the Typhoon Display team brochure and other media for the 2016 Season. Photo: SAC Chris Ellis CON-OFFICIAL-20160229-0287

Flt Lt Mark Long joined the armed force on his 17th Birthday Mark walked into Cambridge Armed Forces Careers Office and professed his ambition to fly fast jets in the Royal Air Force – four months later he was awarded a RAF Bursary to study Economics.

After earning his wings and working his way up the ranks at RAF stations including Linton and Cottesmore he joined the Typhoon Force in 2012.

He was assigned to 11 Sqn at RAF Coningsby, where he revalidated his Combat Ready qualifications. Mark has deployed on Air Policing duties in the Baltic States, in addition to holding QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) duties in the UK and South Atlantic.

2015 Typhoon Display Pilot Flight Lieutenant Johnny Dowen hands over the 2016 Typhoon Display Pilot role to Flight Lieutenant Mark Long. Photo By:- SAC Jack Welson(RAF) CON-OFFICIAL-

It was back to instructional duties in 2014, with a posting to 29(R) Sqn. His primary role is to teach the student pilots how to operate the Typhoon, ensuring the trained and ready to join a Typhoon frontline squadron. Additional to his instructional duties, Mark contributes to RAF Coningsby’s primary task of defending UK sovereign airspace.

Mark lives in Lincolnshire, with his wife Beth and his two daughters. In his spare time Mark enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, playing all racket sports, golf and getting out on his motorbikes. He regularly rides at Cadwell Park, striving to achieve respectable lap times on his Track Bikes.

Below Flt Lt Long answers a number of questions about his new role:

What does being chosen to be the display Pilot mean to you?

2015 Typhoon Display Pilot Flight Lieutenant Johnny Dowen hands over the 2016 Typhoon Display Pilot role to Flight Lieutenant Mark Long. Photo By:- SAC Jack Welson(RAF) CON-OFFICIAL-

It is a true privilege! To display a Front Line jet is a life long ambition realised, especially considering I joined the RAF as a result of being inspired by air displays from the Harrier, Lightning, Red Arrows etc (I was six years old at the time).

What are you enjoying about it so far?

Airborne and therefore selfishly, I get to really appreciate the performance of the Typhoon. It is epic. On the ground I am surrounded by a motivated hugely supportive team and Squadron, and that makes the whole job so satisfying.

How is your display work up going?

Who would have thought it would be so difficult to get good weather in a Lincolnshire winter! So it has been a slow start but now is ramping up nicely, and the feed back from people (especially my mentor Jonny Dowen) is very encouraging.

The display itself is 7:30 min of pure concentration, aiming to achieve perfection each time. I am learning a great deal, every practice has new elements (wind, cloud etc) that subtlety effect how the sequence is flown.

Which event/ air show are you really looking forward to and why?

Duxford (May 28/29) is going to be a big event for me, as I grew up 5 miles away from the airfield so it is effectively my local air show. It will also have the entire contingent of the extended Long family present!

Each venue offers something new; I am really looking forward to meeting as many people as possible at each event.

What is the aspect of the job you think you won’t enjoy?

Time away from my family is going to be tough. Thankfully my wife offers me so much support, and understands some of the external pressures.

The season is going to race by, and I really want them to be involved so we can share the experience….although the air show ice cream van will be more appealing to my daughters than watching Daddy display again.