Last Day in the Office
After performing a final photo sortie in Chipmunk WG486, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s departing boss, Sqn Ldr Andy ‘Milli’ Millikin, speaks to Darren Harbar about his three-year tenure
Flights in two of the unit’s aircraft closed the most recent chapter in the career of former BBMF boss, Sqn Ldr Andy Millikin. Flypast was on hand to capture one of those trips, on October 17, as ‘Milli’ flew Chipmunk WG486 for the last time, before concluding his BBMF association by flying an air test in Spitfire TE311 later that day. The sorties marked the end of a very busy and challenging period of command. With the airshow community coming to terms with the fallout of Shoreham, and a final year that included the RAF centenary commemorations, a great deal of pressure had been dealt to Milli and his team during his time ‘in the chair’. He is now returning to the RAF’s frontline Typhoon force.
NOT JUST FLYING
Speaking with the departing CO, it becomes obvious that there is more to the operation of the BBMF than just flying the aircraft. “Having handed over command of BBMF to Sqn Ldr Mark ‘Disco’ Discombe at our end-of-season guest night [October 20], I have been reflecting on my time as the Boss,” Andy recounted. “The most striking thing is the speed at which those three years have passed. I think the reason for this is the frenetic nature of BBMF. While the season offers the most flying, there isn’t any downtime. Once the season ends there’s Members’ Day for the team to organise, then the End of Season Guest Night. The engineers go to work on the planned maintenance, and training starts for new fighter pilots.
“The plan for the following season (usually around 1,000 events) is constructed in November and the ops team, under Flt Lt Andy ‘Preecey’ Preece, speaks to every single event organiser. February brings flying ability tests and a standards visit by the Central Flying School, and the bomber boys start coming back to the flight from their frontline jobs. Air tests on all the aircraft and training for the whole flight begins in March, then in April it’s the public display authority work-up. Once complete, it’s headlong into the season proper.”
Andy continued: “The Flight’s unique composition means that where there would normally be more than 20 officers and 150-plus airmen to conduct all the work required of a flying unit, BBMF has just four officers, 31 airmen and six civil servants. I have been constantly impressed by the enthusiasm, drive and outstanding dedication of the team, and this all done against the backdrop of perpetual media interest, public and private demands for visits (which the flight hosts every single day) and solicitation for support from charities, as well as all the other administration that goes with a squadron.
“My tenure as boss saw the display world change in the shadow of the Shoreham crash [August 22, 2015]. We embraced the opportunity to work with the Military Aviation Authority, to provide subject matter expert advice for proposed regulatory changes. I am proud to say that much of what we offered was adopted into new regulation, which I believe is now safer while remaining pragmatic. We have continued to provide feedback and recommendations whenever we have had any display-related incidents. We are at the spearhead of honest safety reporting, but always offering ways to learn to become safer…”
The rest of this article is in the current issue of FlyPast, cover dated January 2019. It’s available in UK shops now or can be purchased via the website – www.flypast.com. Alternatively, you can download a digital edition from www.pocketmags.com – simply search ‘FlyPast’.