JOHN SAUNDERS MBE
I joined the Navy as a Pinkie Tiff in 1966, after training I served at RNAS Culdrose, RAF Lossiemouth and HMS ARK ROYAL before taking a SL commission as a potential Observer in 1973. On completion of Observer School and OW courses I joined 849 HQ having just about fulfilled my potential. Scrapping through OFT I joined B flight September 75 there I remained serving on HMS ARK ROYAL until she completed her de-commissioning cruise December 78. Clearly considered a risky venture to train on another A/C type!
On completion of the EWI course, with Dai Rees as the instructor, I was appointed along with Peter Hulett and Colin Fryer, the younger element of the Gannet mafia, to 231 Canberra OCU and then to 360 Sqn, a Tri- service Electronic Warfare squadron, flying Canberra T17. This was followed by a year at RAF Cranwell on the GD Aero System Course and an appointment in January 1982 to RAE Farnborough in Future Systems. Well we all know what happened in 1982, a rapid conversion to Sea Kings equipped with Searchwater Radar on 824D Flight with Peter Flutter as CO and Phil Howarth as SOBS and then a trip down south on HMS Illustrious. On completion of that cruise I was retained on 824D Flight as an Instructor, Trials Officer and Radar specialist. 824 D Flight transformed to 849 Squadron in November 1984 and I continued to serve in the above roles until B Flight formed in March 1986. What did I say earlier about a risky venture training me on different A/C types.
Appointed as SOBS of 849B Flight on formation I remained with them until September 1987 before leaving for a short tour on the Observer School before re-joining as CO 849B Flight July 1989. Two fantastic jobs and a bit of shore time, I unfortunately missed the Global cruise (Outback) on HMS ARK ROYAL, but heard all about it! Thereafter 2 FONA staff jobs and then a return to 849 HQ as CO in October 1994. On completion of my last flying job in the Navy I had achieved a total of 4300 hours, of which just over 2000 hours were achieved on Sea King AEW Mk 2 and 1060 hours on Gannet AEW 3.
Leaving the RN in 1998 I joined Thales as a Flight Trials Engineer, primarily conducting the Sea King AEW Mk 7 Trials. This was a planned series of 12 flights to prove the system. In fact I flew in over 100 sorties amassing another 300 hours flight time. The system was not as ready as it could have been! I left Thales in 2005 joined QinetiQ Boscome Down as a Flight Test Observer for 2 years, got bored and joined Maritime Warfare School (MWS)HMS Collingwood as the SKASaC Trials Officer working for the SKASaC Desk Officer over a period of 6 years. The great cull of MWS in 2013 resulted in me then working as a part time Radar consultant for Lockheed Martime for 3 years, specifying performance and then providing an input to the selection of the Crownest Mission system, finally retiring in 2016.
I consider myself fortunate in my career choices, a rich and at times challenging but fulfilling employment and the opportunity to work with some great people.