Photo: To the edge of space

Photo: Royal Navy

A photo shared by the Royal Navy recently took us to the edge of space in the rear seat of a Hawk jet from the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.

Taking the picture 8.3 miles above Cornwall, the aircraft, from 736 Naval Air Squadron (the Royal Navy’s Adversary Squadron), was flying at 44,000 ft, heading south between Lands End and the Scillies.

The Hawk’s canopy affords an excellent view of the curvature of the earth as well as the inky blue of the edge of space.

The Hawk was being put through its paces on a post-maintenance test-flight. These test-flights which are a vital part of keeping the fleet of Hawk T1s flying safely, are somewhat different to the usual tasking in support to ‘Operational Training’.

736 NAS can usually be seen flying from RNAS Culdrose to provide ‘simulated attack training’ which helps Royal Navy ships to get ready to deploy on operations.

The test-flights involve the pilot deliberately flying the aircraft to its performance limits as 736 Naval Air Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Barry Issitt, explains:

“Firstly a performance climb to 44,000 feet to ensure that the engine is performing as it should. The aircraft is put through its paces to ensure it handles correctly throughout the entire flight envelope: A high mach dive and high speed run at 2,000 feet over the sea, travelling at over 650 miles per hour.

“We deliberately spin and stall the aircraft, and fly to the manoeuvring G-Limits of the jet; pulling +8g and -3.5g – particularly unpleasant!

“Additionally, many of the standby systems designed to keep the aircraft flying in the event of an emergency are tested to ensure they operate correctly. All in all, the best roller-coaster in the world – or at least in Cornwall!”

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