Commander Ian Tidball has retired from the Royal Navy after a 32-year career as a pilot.

Over the course of his career, Tidball spent 4,111 hours in the air, flying 35 different types of aircraft.

He is best known by readers of the UK Defence Journal for his work with the F-35 programme, and it was fitting that his final flight was in the Lightning, as he made the short journey from MCAS Miramar to Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The Royal Navy say here that upon his arrival, he was greeted by colleagues from 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron, personnel from the US Navy’s VX-9 squadron, his family, and a couple of fire extinguishers.

Tidball, who is from Somerset, joined the Royal Navy in 1991 and received his Wings as a qualified helicopter pilot. He spent the early years of his career flying Commando Sea Kings and, after logging more than 1,000 hours as a helicopter pilot, moved on to fast jets, starting with the Sea Harrier.

He held various positions, including XO, Operations Officer, and Air Warfare Instructor, and had the unique experience of deploying on all three of the UK carriers in service at the time – HMS Invincible, Illustrious, and Ark Royal. He cites his time on the Sea Harrier as a particular highlight, saying “I enjoyed the huge camaraderie in the Sea Harrier force and flying off the carrier around the world was amazing.”

After accumulating more than 1,300 hours on the Harrier, Tidball moved to the USA and flew FA-18s with the US Navy’s VX-9. During his time with the “Vampires,” he executed flight tests across the full range of FA-18 warfighter effectiveness capabilities and achieved day and night carrier qualifications in the Super Hornet, a childhood dream of his inspired by Topgun.

He then became the UK Deputy Lead National Representative within the US-led F-35 Operational Test Team from 2011 to 2012, and later an Instructor Pilot with the US Marines at VMFAT-501 in Florida, as the first Royal Navy pilot on the jet.

You can read more about the man here.

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Alexander MacDonald works in the field of data protection and information security. In his day job, he helps to ensure the safety and security of sensitive data. In his spare time, Alexander is passionate about citizen journalism and using his skills to help shed light on important issues.
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Robert Blay.
Robert Blay. (@guest_692268)
1 year ago

What an incredible career this guy has had. He was a Sea Harrier FA2 pilot when I served on 800NAS, though I didn’t know him well, I remember him as always polite, and had a good crack with the lads. He came from a pretty ordinary background, he didn’t go to an expensive private school or anything like that. Just shows hard work and ambition can pay off if you put your mind to it. 🇬🇧

FormerUSAF (@guest_692353)
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.


Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_692369)
1 year ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Hats off to this chap or, more correctly “helmets” off to having a “top shelf” career and service! Inspirational stuff! 🇬🇧 🇦🇺

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins (@guest_692322)
1 year ago

Those who new him would, of course, refer to him as Tidders!

Hanging up his helmet after 30 years in the cockpit is Fleet Air Arm legend Commander Ian Tidball.

Known affectionately as ‘Tidders’, the aviator from Somerset ignored the career ‘advice’ aged 16 which said he would never become a pilot.

Proving them wrong, he’s flown 35 aircraft types – including blazing the trail for UK F-35 pilots (RAF as well as RN) over the past decade – clocking up 4,111 hours (171 days) in the skies since joining the Service in 1991.
Read more:…/20230103-end-of-an-era-as-th…

Peter Crisp
Peter Crisp (@guest_692348)
1 year ago

That has to go down as one of the best jobs to have.
Testing a new jet like the F-35 must have had some pretty decent highlights.

Knowing that jet is going to be in service for 50+ years must make testing interesting.

Chris (@guest_692350)
1 year ago

Impressive to make fast jet status in three different branches of two different militaries. Sea Harrier/F-35 RN, F/A-18 USN, F-35 USMC. Did he ever fly for the RAF?

Airborne (@guest_692355)
1 year ago

Well done that man, very skilled, experienced and capable! Now to “retire” to a well paid job flying with a contracted Company for the RAF/RN and not the Chinese hopefully 😂! Would love to have had the brains and the ability to give military flying a go, alas, I was just ever carbon based cargo!

Rob (@guest_692379)
1 year ago

Hire him for the UK-Japan-Italy Tempest programme.