Squadron Leader Paul "Pablo" Mason RAF (Rtd.) is a retired Royal Air Force pilot, who was part of the XV Squadron detachment to Bahrain as part of the RAF Tornado squadron during the Gulf War, and subsequently wrote about his experiences. Mason is known for his handlebar moustache, and his Biggles-like attitude and persona.
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Mason joined the Royal Air Force after joining the Air Training Corps as a teenager. He initially trained and qualified on helicopters, before transitioning to Fighter aircraft in XV Squadron with the Panavia Tornado. His service included Northern Ireland and Hong Kong.
Mason was among the 24 RAF Tornado crews detached to Saudi Arabia during the buildup to Operation Desert Storm, with the specific brief to knock out the Iraqi Air Force bases by bombing the runways. On Mason's first mission, an ultra-low level daylight mission on Ar Rumaylah airfield leading a flight of four Tornados, his number two crew of John Peters and navigator John Nichol were shot down and became POW's. Mason flew and led 24 bombing missions in total in Desert Storm, from ultra-low-level daylight, medium-level night bombing and on 2 February 1991 the first ever Buccaneer–Tornado attack using laser-guided bombs. During the Gulf War he was often seen on television representing the RAF.
On his return from the Gulf, on 10 May 1991 Mason's life was saved when his Navigator ejected the crew from his Tornado GR1, which crashed near Lubberstedt, Germany, on a training mission. The RAF investigation of the incident attributed the cause of the crash to pilot mishandling of the aircraft.
After the RAF
After retirement from the RAF, Mason retired to his home in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire where he wrote his book Pablo's War. He and his wife run the Adams Hotel. While Mason flew as a senior pilot for MyTravel Airways, the charter airline division of the holiday company MyTravel Group plc, he flew both holiday makers and private charters. Mason was well known within the airline for his Biggles like personality and continual, humorous, matter of fact style, telling a "rather miserable" bunch of holiday makers who made up the last flight of the 1997 season from Manchester Airport to the Greek island of Kefalonia, "Come on you miserable lot. You are going on your holidays - to the sunshine. You should be smiling, you miserable bunch." Mason's attitude transferred well to the public speaking circuit, while his knowledge of his craft resulted in him starting a fear of flying course.
In August 2007, Mason was piloting a MyTravel Airbus A320 on a private charter from Finland to Manchester, with the football team and directors of Blackburn Rovers who were returning from their 1-0 UEFA Cup victory over MyPa-47. Welsh international Robbie Savage had a fear of flying, and asked if he could see the cockpit, which Mason agreed to. Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, security on commercial flights both pre and in-flight has been increased, and in the view of MyTravel Mason broke these rules, and endangered the safety of the flight. Although Savage had written to the company in support of Mason, and the football club had also written in support, on 8 Oct 2007 MyTravel dismissed Mason for gross misconduct. Mason admitted bending the rules but denied putting the flight at risk, "Yes I broke a rule. I did interpret the rule wasn't quite as strict for a private charter, which this was. Everyone on board knew each other. I think above all his [Savage] anxiety about flying has been relaxed in some way." Mason stated that he would appeal the dismissal, but it was upheld by MyTravel.
Mason lost his tribunal against Thomas Cook (My Travel) in March 2009 and received no pay out, remaining dismissed by the company.
Mason is a regular contributor to the award-winning British aviation podcast, Flaps Podcast, with his "Mason's Minute" feature.
- Mason, Pablo - Pablo's War - Bloomsbury Publishing, 12 Aug 1992, ISBN 0-7475-1234-5
- Mason, Pablo and Bartlett, Kim - Pablo's Travels - Little, Brown, 1 Feb 1996, ISBN 978-0-316-91400-0
- Bolton Evening News, 3 January 1998, Yon mon's definitely Biggles without his leather helmet
- Classique Promotions - Pablo Mason
- 121 Sqn. ATC - News - Pablo Mason
- RAF Accident report 10 May 1991
- The People, 20 December 1998, Operation Desert Fox: My Heart Is With Brave Top Gun Heroes.(News)
- Birmingham Post, 1 February 1999, Gulf hero slams Blair over raids
- The Sun, 27 November 2006, Gulf war ace is a top bum!
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- Pilot sacked after allowing Rovers' star in cockpit Lancashire Evening Telegraph - 8 October 2007
- Hero pilot sacked for letting footballer Robbie Savage on the flight deck Mail on Sunday - 5 October 2007
- Pilot sacked after Savage visit BBC News - 8 October 2007
- Pilot loses Savage sacking appeal BBC News - 25 November 2007