Almost 35 years ago, a schoolboy watched a RAF Vulcan bomber aircraft take part in the Jurby air show.
That schoolboy was Steve Lushington and through a successful military career and promotion to the rank of Group Captain, he now commands RAF Brize Norton – the largest RAF station in the Royal Air Force.
Steve grew up on the island and is from St Jude’s.
He was a pupil at Ramsey Grammar School before joining the RAF in 1988. Although his interest in aircraft and flying was sparked by that summer’s day at Jurby, his passion for the RAF and the thought of pursuing a military flying career was fostered through the air cadets in the island.
‘Never once during that time did I ever consider a different career – flying was something that I was going to do.
‘I knew the career path I wanted to take and getting involved with the air cadets was the first step in achieving my that ambition.’
Group Captain Lushington’s career in the RAF has been busy, demanding and taken him across the globe. As soon as he had finished his flying training, he was involved in Gulf War I flying the VC10 air-to-air refuelling aircraft as a co-pilot. Soon after he became a flying instructor and low-level aerobatic display pilot – displaying the Bulldog aircraft at airshows across the UK and Europe.
Subsequent appointments have included operation deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and the Falkland Islands and numerous training exercise across the globe.
‘The RAF has given me so many opportunities. There are so many career options and world beating training to ensure that everyone has the chance to be the very best they can. It is a demanding lifestyle but the rewards are well worth it. I have absolutely no regrets about choosing a career in the Royal Air Force.’
The 44-year-old is no stranger to RAF Brize Norton – his current job as Station Commander is his fifth tour of duty at the Station. All his previous tours were flying the VC10; his first tour as a co-pilot and his final as Officer Commanding Number 101 Squadron.
‘The VC10 is a wonderful aircraft and celebrates its 51st birthday this year,’ he said. ‘The VC10 will retire in 2013 marking an end to an outstanding chapter in British flying history. It will be a sad day when the VC10 finally retires.’
RAF Brize Norton is home to seven flying squadrons, home to all UK forces parachute training and is the central node for all UK military air transport to and from all operational theatres.
‘I am delighted that I have been given an opportunity to serve in such a pivotal post which is vital to the success of UK military operations both in the UK and overseas.
‘There were a number of individuals who could have been chosen for the post of Station Commander RAF Brize Norton – I feel honoured and very privileged to be the one appointed.’
Although as Station Commander the opportunities to actually fly are few and far between, he added:
‘You join the air force to fly and I will do my utmost to get flying again. However, commanding a garrison of more than 7,000 personnel and managing seven different aircraft types which are deployed to numerous locations around the world dominates your time.’
Asked what makes his current job special Steve said: ‘Flying and deploying on operations is the routine – something that we train for continuously. It is the extra activities that often go unnoticed that make the difference.
‘For example, RAF Brize Norton is at the very centre of the recovery of very sick and injured servicemen and women from anywhere in the world – sadly and most routinely, soldiers that have been injured by improvised explosive device (IEDs) whilst on operations in Afghanistan.
‘When called upon to fly back an injured serviceman from Afghanistan, the whole team at RAF Brize Norton swings in to action without hesitation or question. Each and every time the shout come, sadly all too often, Team Brize Norton is focused on ensuring that the injured person gets back to the UK as quickly as possible.’
RAF Brize Norton also has the sad but very privileged status as being the military unit that is used for the repatriation of all our country’s fallen servicemen and women. The bodies of the Fallen are flown back to RAF Brize Norton on a C17 aircraft and RAF Brize Norton personnel co-ordinate and take part in the repatriation ceremony – all of whom are volunteers.
‘The pride, professionalism and dignified manner which underpins every repatriation ceremony is exemplary and most appropriate for the families and friends of the Fallen, who all come to Brize Norton to see their loved one brought home. The repatriation team at Brize Norton is passionate about getting every repatriation right – not for themselves or the military but for the families and friends of the fallen servicemen and it is right every single time and so it will and must remain.
‘I am very lucky – I work with ordinary people who do extra-ordinary things every single day.’
Married to Maggie, they live on base at RAF Brize Norton situated in the heart of the Cotswolds with their three children. Steve returns to the island whenever he can:
‘The Isle of Man is home – my parents still live here. I really enjoy going back to the island, I have such fond memories of growing up here.’