By Hywel Trewyn
Mum says he crammed everything into his life, he would work hard and party hard, always with a smile
The parents of a fighter pilot who died in a midair collision between two Tornado jets have spoken of their “happy, loving son” on the first anniversary of his death.
Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole, 28, from Llandegfan, Anglesey, was killed along with two others on a training exercise over the Moray Firth in Scotland on July 3 last year.
At his funeral at Bangor Cathedral, Hywel was described as a “loving man” and “exceptional” RAF fighter pilot.
In their first interview since his death, his mum Denise Davies, 61, and father Mike, 59, paid tribute to their son, who was due to join 617 Dambusters Squadron three weeks after the accident.
Denise, who has remarried and lives in Oxford, said: “He loved flying. He crammed everything into his life. He would work hard and party hard, always with a smile.”
She added: “He had about nine sorties to fly before having to go out to Afghanistan. He also planned to get married, probably this year.
Fighting back the tears, retired dentist Denise said: “I was always aware the training they had to do in the fast jets was just as dangerous.
“He was very proud to be a RAF pilot. He was living his dream as a fast-jet pilot. He was always very happy, kind and caring. He had a very strong sense of fair play. He wanted to help people. He was a very happy, loving son.
The funeral of Hywel Poole
Recalling his upbringing, she added: “Anglesey was a wonderful place to bring up children. He would cycle down to the banks of the Menai to sail or surf. He lived in a wetsuit.”
“He loved the RNLI and had his bedroom wall was covered with posters of lifeboats.”
Dad Mike, 59, a retired pathology scientist of Llandegfan, said: “We’re holding up. It’s always on your mind. The RAF have been very supportive.”
An inquiry into the deaths is on-going. A fatal accident inquiry, or FAI, and a court hearing by a Procurator Fiscal in Scotland is awaited.
Mike said: “It will be nice if we can ask questions at the inquiry if we want to.”
While Hywel died, his instructor Sqr Paul Evans miraculously survived but broke his spine. The other pilot, Flt Lieut Adam Sanders, and his trainer, Sqr Ldr Samuel Bailey, both died.
Mike said: “All we know is that the two planes collided. They don’t know how his instructor survived. We won’t know why it happened until the investigation.
“He had a glittering career in front of him as a fast-jet pilot. His commanding officer said he was a natural Tornado pilot. It was something he did very, very well.”
Mike said Hywel was planning to propose to his partner Beth, who now lives in Australia but remains in touch. They’d been together five years before the tragic accident. He has an older brother Owen, who lives in the Vale of Glamorgan.
There will be a short memorial service on the base at Lossiemouth on Wednesday and a memorial unveiled for the three who died. There is also going to be a cairn in the garden of the officers’ mess on the base.
On Friday, Mike and Denise will be attending a service of dedication at the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where Hywel’s name and others from the armed forces who died in 2012 will be inscribed.
The next day, Saturday July 6, the Hywel Poole Memorial Race will be held on the Menai Strait in his honour.
A pupil at Ysgol Llandegfan and Ysgol David Hughes, Hywel sailed for Wales and the UK. He studied engineering at Southampton University and joined the Air Cadets. In his final year he won an RAF bursary to go on to Cranwell College and started training on fast jets.
A patriotic Welshman, Hywel always wore a red shirt whenever his country played – his hero was rugby star George North.
Hywel started his basic jet training at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire when he was 23. He then went to train on Hawks at RAF Valley – the only one out of a squadron of 12 who wasn’t made redundant. Denise believes he was kept on because of his leadership qualities learned from sailing.
During this time he sailed around Anglesey in a Laser dinghy – and in record time – to raise money for Help For Heroes. From Valley, he went on to train on the Tornados at RAF Lossiemouth.
The Hywel Poole Memorial Race is at Y Felinheli on Saturday.
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Fighter jets have rehearsed a fly-past over Anglesey for the Diamond Jubilee, although the actual event will be over Windsor Castle.
More than 200 spectators watched Hawk, Tornado and Hercules planes take to the skies on Tuesday at Mona Airfield.
Pilots had to pretend it was the Queen’s residence in Berkshire.
On Saturday, 80 aircraft will take place in the real fly-past, which is part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s 60-year reign.
RAF Flt Lt Rob Pitt told BBC Wales the pilots taking part were highly skilled, and the level of complexity was “very, very high”.
“The Royal Air Force train the absolute best combat fast jet pilots in the world and all of those combat fast jet pilots come through Royal Air Force Valley to do that training,” he added.
“So they’ve been training for this with the commanding officer for quite some time. I think today is going to bear the fruit of those efforts.”
RAF squadron leader Albie Fox said the 80 aircraft would be simulating the Battle of Britain on Saturday.
“This is one of the more complex fly-pasts there have been because there are so many aircrafts taking part,” he added.
“It is quite complex and it takes a lot of choreography to make sure it happens correctly.”
The Duke of Cambridge is based at RAF Valley, where he is a search and rescue helicopter pilot.
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