Gerald Howarth, Aldershot's MP and Shadow Minister for Defence, is a political high flyer- and proved it when he soared over Switzerland recently.

Gerald was taking a look at one of the aircraft in the contest to be the RAF's next two-seater trainer.

On a visit to the Swiss firm of Pilatus, he was given the chance to fly their new prototype two seater, the PC-21- he assures us it doesn't stand for "politically correct"!

The new plane is designed to train pilots for modern combat aircraft and has state of the art instrumentation-three flat screens like those on laptops to replace the usual analogue dials.

These enable the student pilots to do navigational exercises or switch the screen mode to simulate a weapons mission.

The PC-21 first flew last July and Gerald was the first non-company pilot to take it into the skies.

"You can imagine how breathtaking it was weaving around the snow-clad Swiss mountains and performing aerobatics in the valleys, before diving down to treetop height," he told the Star.

"The Swiss Air Force even sent up two F-18 fighters to escort me," he added - and one of them can be seen in our second picture.