Yorkshire volunteer and former RAF pilot reunites with Sepecat Jaguar aircraft he flew during Cold War

A former RAF pilot from Yorkshire has been reunited with the Sepecat Jaguar aircraft at the Yorkshire Air Museum he flew during the Cold War nearly 40 years ago.

The Sepecat Jaguar XZ383 has gone on display at the Yorkshire Air Museum (YAM) near York after being donated by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Two volunteer guides at the museum have been reunited with the cold war jet they both flew during their time as RAF fast jet pilots.

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The Jaguar is an Anglo-French designed, single seater attack aircraft that first flew in the 1970s and retired in 2007.

Gary (left) and Derek (right) with Jaguar. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)Gary (left) and Derek (right) with Jaguar. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)
Gary (left) and Derek (right) with Jaguar. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)

Volunteer at YAM and former RAF pilot Derek Earp, 73, from Huby near York, spent more than 2,000 hours flying Jaguars since 1983.

“It was delivered from the air force in bits, so it took them quite a bit to get it back to what the public can see now,” Mr Earp said.

“It was quite nice to see it. We could get to the cockpit from day one and that was a nice feeling because when you’re sitting in a Jaguar it fits like a glove, it’s nice and cosy. You remember those things.

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“It’s something that I always comment about when I’m doing Halifax tours; all aircraft have got a unique smell, like a new car smells of leather.

Jaguar in flight. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)Jaguar in flight. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)
Jaguar in flight. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)

“You can blindfold me and I could recognise that I was standing in a Nimrod, the Jaguar has got a different smell and that comes back to you, even though this particular aircraft hasn’t flown since 1986, it still has the Jaguar smell.”

He was a pilot in the air force for 21 years and has flown with a variety of aircraft including Nimrod

Mr Earp flew as a pilot for 21 years.

“I was born ten miles north of York within the view of Linton-on-Ouse which was an RAF base and saw these aircraft flying over me,” he said.

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Derek Earp on left with the Jaguar in the 1980s. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)Derek Earp on left with the Jaguar in the 1980s. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)
Derek Earp on left with the Jaguar in the 1980s. (Pic credit: Yorkshire Air Museum)

“From a young age I wanted to become a pilot, join the air training when I was old enough to and then move from air training to the RAF. After leaving school I went straight into the air force.

“I was a pilot in the air force for 21 years, my first operational tour was with Nimrods, maritime anti-submarine aircraft which I captained.

“After that I became a flight instructor at Linton-on-Ouse, I spent five years instructing and subsequently converted from my original multi-crew to fast jet Jaguars. I spent the last eight years in the air force flying Jaguars.

“I first went onto the Jaguar in February 1983 and flew [with RAF] until November 1990 and then went out to Ecuador with British Aerospace and flew it out there for 14 months.

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“I flew the [Jaguar GR1 XZ383] in 1984 and 1985 and flew it six times in 1986, in fact I flew it in the last month before the aircraft was retired. The RAF retired a number of Jaguars in 1986.”

He flew RAF aircraft during the Cold War as well as the 14 Squadron.

“We call it a Cold War because we didn’t actually go and drop bombs, we tried to prevent the war,” Mr Earp said.

“The Squadron that I was on in Germany had a strike attack role which meant it carried nuclear bombs as part of the nuclear deterrent and attack in support of the army in tradiction missions behind enemy lines.

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“It was a conventional bomber with a nuclear role and we held QRA 24 hours a day sitting on a nuclear bomb as a part of the deterrent.”

Mr Earp said he hopes to pass on his historical knowledge to the younger generation through events at YAM such as Open Cockpit Day.

“One of the things we do at the museum is an Open Cockpit Day where we let children and grown up children climb inside the cockpits,” he said.

“We’ve actually done this twice since the Jaguar arrived while they’ve been rebuilding it. So it’s nice to take the young generation to sit in an aircraft I’ve flown and explain the inner workings of it.”

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