Illustrious Merlin flies home
The Royal Navy Merlin Mk 1 that was onboard HMS ILLUSTRIOUS for Exercise Cougar 2013 deployment has returned home to its Cornish Home - Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.
The 829 Naval Air Squadron Merlin of 01 Flight was due home before Christmas but was re-tasked to assist in thePhilippinesafter Typhoon Hayian had struck the region in the latter part of last year.
“It has been a really worth while trip and, whilst disappointed to miss Christmas at home, it was all for a great cause and I even managed to see first hand how we helped the people in desperate need in the Philippines,” Said Leading Air Engineering Technician Dan Donbavand. “Singapore was such a fantastic run ashore and part of the world I’ve never been to or likely able to go back to again soon!”
Since sailing for exercises in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Middle East in August, the single Merlin Flight has flown over 200 hours on 100 sorties; ranging from hunting pirates off the Horn of Africa, searching for submarines or, more recently, flying humanitarian aid ashore in the Far East. Of those 200 hours, 75 were flown during the intense two week period of Op Patwin, theUK’s response to Typhoon Hayian. The Merlin, working alongside Royal Navy Sea King and Army Lynx, flew 100 tonnes of vital aid ashore and moved 260 specialist personnel around the islands.
The Merlin Flight disembarked at Culdrose whilst ‘Lusty’ sailed past the Lizard peninsula on her final stretch towards her homeport. The Navy’s Helicopter Commando Amphibious aircraft carrier is due to dock inPortsmouthfor her own spectacular homecoming.
Having been away since August and spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve at sea, the sight of friends and families waiting on the tarmac at Culdrose, eagerly anticipating their homecoming was all the more exciting for the returning Flight of Aircrew and Engineers.
“We could see the families waiting for us as we taxied to the squadron.” Said Petty Officer Stu Cragg who was welcomed home by his wife and two daughters, “We managed to disembark with four aircrew and seven maintainers in the back of the Merlin, so luckily most of us will get to spend tonight at home. It’s been long time!”
Having spent more than half of last year away from home, 01 Flight personnel will now take some well deserved leave before another busy year, commencing with Merlin Mk 2 training in March.
Promoted to Lieutenant Commander during the ‘Cougar deployment’, Flight Commander, Ed Cooper said “It has been an incredibly busy and successful few years for the Merlin team of 829 NAS 01 Flight. COUGAR 13 and OP PATWIN were great examples of what the RN do best; it shows the Royal Navy is globally deployable and can take part in operations at short notice. It also shows that the Merlin is one of most capable and versatile helicopters in the Armed Services,” he finished, “For 01 Flight, they will no doubt have another challenging year. I wish them all the best”.