Four Tucano aircraft, one carefully painted up in Spitfire colours, have embarked upon a lengthy and ambitious flyby to celebrate their 100th birthday.
Formed on 2 July 1917, the squadron have found themselves based all over the world, from their early days in Iraq in 1918, to the 1940s in north Africa and more recently in Northern Ireland.
To mark the occasion, they have devised a complex route with low level flybys of not just every UK station they have been based at over the years, but also every surviving squadron member of World War Two, with Forces News reporter Hannah King sitting on board.
In the war they flew Spitfires – one of the few remaining squadrons to hold Battle Honours for their bravery in the Battle of Britain.
But during its 100 year history, 72 Squadron has transitioned through many aircraft, from the Gloucester Gladiator, to the Vampire and the Meteor.
In Northern Ireland they took to helicopters, and finally they found themselves climbing aboard the small training aircraft – the Tucano.
Now, the 2017 pilots of 72 Squadron prepare to take today’s Tucanos to the skies to celebrate their 100th birthday.
Their ambitious route covers 1,200 miles and involves no fewer than 30 flybys.
Sadly things did not quite go according to plan…
Starting in Cornwall and ending in Northern Ireland, they had hoped the route would take them past almost every one of their old bases.
“Getting on to 72 and finding out about its history really struck a chord with me.”
The ‘grand flypast’ as it’s become known has created such excitement on social media.
They had to alter their route to encompass the Mach Loop in Wales, where the Welsh spotters complained they had been left out.
So the plan is obviously to pass all their old bases, but there is another element to this flypast.
The squadron have tracked down every surviving veteran who served with them during the Second World War, contacting them and then planning a route to do a private flyby of each and every one.
It was all going so well, but as they approached Duxford to end the second leg, the rain came pouring down.
The Grand Flypast was diverted to land an hour and a half away, much to the crew’s frustration.
After much deliberation the decision was made to terminate the flyby and recover the quadrant back to Linton-on-Ouse.
“You realise how many people support the squadron, which is really important to us,” says Wg Cdr Robbie Lees, Officer Commanding, 72 Squadron.
Despite the disappointment, 72 Squadron have started something special, with part two still to come.