A cuddly bear has clocked up more flying hours with the RAF than most people would see in their lifetime.
And when the toy’s adventures finally come to an end it will be auctioned off to raise funds for the RAF Association (RAFA).
“Boss Bear” began his travels at the 2006 RAFA Shoreham Airshow. Since then the House of Lords teddy bear has gradually wound its way around the world.
John Periam, the Shoreham Air Show Press Officer, said: “His pilot’s log book has more flying hours than most would see in their life time plus some interesting stories, photographs and autographs with celebrities and crew members. His jumper has more squadron badges on than it can now take so we have had to start putting them on his rucksack.”
The patron of the 2006 RAFA Shoreham Airshow, HRH Princess Alexandra, signed the cover of his log book and the bear was last seen flying off with the Merlin Display Team back to their base. Since then he has flown with the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, accompanied squadrons at most RAF Bases in the UK and even participated in Operation Red Flag.
He was the first bear to qualify on the Nimrod R1 in an electronic surveillance role – flight deck and rear crew – and the Commanding Officer of 51 Squadron even commented: “Boss Bear is an outstanding aviator, it has been a pleasure to fly with him.”
Not one to be confined to the British Isles, the bear has also flown with the US Air Force on F16s, F18s, B52s and the B1B – although it was reported that he suffered a little motion sickness while over the Grand Canyon.
Other flying roles have taken him up with most civilian display teams including “The Blades” led by Andy Offer and his team of ex-Red Arrow pilots, also Vic Norman’s Guinot Wingwalkers. Not to miss any opportunity he was even winched up by the Royal Navy and displayed with the Navy Black Cats helicopter team as well as the Sussex Police Helicopter.
To date his highlights have been two fly-bys over Buckingham Palace and the Lord Mayor’s Show in London.
Tony Hirons, the RAFA Corporate Communications Manager, said: “He was enjoying life so much that, after he re-appeared at last year’s Shoreham Airshow, we felt it would be nice for him to continue his travels. He was then seen flying off to RAF Cranwell in the Display Tucano and we gather he is currently making his way to RAF Leuchars. He has contacts in high places and could even be flying on Air Force One before too long!”
Boss Bear was donated by Bob Franklin who has been a supporter of the Shoreham Airshow for many years. Following this year’s RAFA Shoreham Airshow on August 30 and 31, the bear will be putting up his flying boots and looking for a suitable home with all his memorabilia.
John Periam added: “I know he is very keen to raise a lot of money for RAFA when this happens and we will be deciding nearer the time how we can do this, plus there has even been some interest in a book being published about his adventures!
“With seven months flying still left, his aim is to meet as many people as possible as he wants to make sure he beats as many records as he can!”