Canberras' flying visit to say goodbye

Three aircraft known as the Queen of the Skies flew together for the last time over their air base at RAF Marham yesterday. People gathered at vantage points around the station to watch the 45-year-old Canberras make a 300mph pass at 500 feet over the main runway before coming in to land after a 2,500-mile round trip.

Three aircraft known as the Queen of the Skies flew together for the last time over their air base at RAF Marham yesterday.

People gathered at vantage points around the station to watch the 45-year-old Canberras make a 300mph pass at 500 feet over the main runway before coming in to land after a 2,500-mile round trip.

Each Canberra had earlier set out from Marham to visit all active RAF airfields in the UK where there has been at some time a strong association with the aircraft.

The sorties were part of the farewell celebrations for the Canberra, which is being retired.

Its spy-in-the-sky role with 39 (1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) Squadron has been overtaken by advanced satellite technology and modern equipment now available for aircraft like Marham's Tornados.

As the three Canberras touched down, station spokesman Sqn Ldr Rem Merrick said: “They have come to the end of their time and so, sadly, we are saying goodbye to them.

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“They are a very graceful aircraft - they're known as the Queen of the Skies and they have lived up to that.”

Among the three crews involved in yesterday's flight was Wing Cdr Clive Mitchell, Officer Commanding of the squadron, which is being disbanded at the end of the month.

He said: “It was nice to get the three aircraft in the sky over RAF Marham for a final occasion during this farewell sortie around the UK. Quite a lot of people were coming out to see us as we flew over different places.”

He added: “I don't think we can overstate the impact the Canberra has had, not just on British aviation, but on aviation worldwide.

“You only have to look at its length of service, the jobs it has done and all the operations it has been involved in - less than a month ago, these aircraft were in operations over Afghanistan.”

Among visitors at RAF Marham for the special day was former USAF serviceman Donald Chormak, 71, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

He said: “I'm moved to have been here today. The Canberra was such an unbelievably well-designed aircraft to withstand such a test of time. What tales these planes could tell if they could speak!”