NAS Merryfield opened to the local community
BLESSED by glorious weather, the Naval Air Station (NAS) at Merryfield, near Ilminster, opened its gates to the local community for the evening of Wednesday, 25 June. Over 1,500 people took up the offer to visit and find out what happens at NAS Merryfield, and why.
NAS Merryfield is the satellite airfield for the main Fleet Air Arm base, RNAS Yeovilton, 13 miles away, near Ilchester. Much of Yeovilton’s procedural helicopter flying training takes place at Merryfield but many people don’t know where the base is, or what it is used for. Once a year - resources permitting - Merryfield stages an Open Evening to ‘tell all’.
RNAS Yeovilton currently has aircraft deployed around the world. In addition to the more obvious tasking, they are involved in operations ranging from counter-narcotics and counter-piracy to a contingency presence in areas such as the Arabian Gulf, the South Atlantic and theMediterranean. The military’s flying training requirement to support this front-line activity is intense. Merryfield accommodates much of the Commando Helicopter Force, Aviation Reconnaissance Force and Maritime Lynx and Wildcat Force training that cannot take place at Yeovilton because it provides a full fixed wing flying capability. Many years of experience show that intensive helicopter flying training and fixed wing operations do not mix.
Maintaining flying skills and readiness for operations is a demanding and exacting task and, as many who live in the Merryfield area know, it is sometimes noisy. The Community Relations Officer, Jeremy Greenop said,
“We acknowledge the impact our operations at Merryfield has on the local community and we do all we can to minimise the disturbance while maintaining the operational effectiveness of our aircrew. Having visited many parishes in the area, I believe we have the overwhelming support of the people in the local community but it is inevitable that some people are not as enthusiastic about what takes place at this airfield, but it is worth remembering that we have been operating helicopters at Merryfield since 1971.
Welcoming the visitors to the 2014 Open Evening, Commodore Jock Alexander, the Commanding Officer of RNAS Yeovilton and NAS Merryfield said,
“This evening we will show you a selection of the flying exercises conducted here, and a flying instructor will explain each of the exercises. In addition, there are a number of static aircraft on display which include other Merryfield users such as AgustaWestland, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary helicopter and Somerset Air Ambulance. The ground displays provide a cross-section of support and other activities associated with the Fleet Air Arm as well as civilian organisations that make use of the airfield. We also have some special flying displays.”
At the start of the evening, the Ilminster and District Radio Control Club, the British Model Flyers Association and the RN Model Flyers provided an exciting flying display with an impressive variety of aircraft. The ‘ground displays’ included: the Yeovilton fire station with an example of the largest RN fire fighting vehicle(the MFV), regular RN Fire vehicles and a fire prevention display; a Royal Marine Commando field equipment display including a field hospital and weapons display; the Royal Navy Aircrew Survival & Evasion Section’s equipment; a history of Naval Air Station Merryfield and work of the Yeovilton Estates Conservation Group; the Fleet Air Arm Museum; the Fly Navy Heritage Trust; the Royal Navy Presentation Team; the British Horse Society; Somerset Road Safety; the Taunton Vale Cycle Racing Club that, as well as their ultra modern carbon fibre racing bicycles, displayed some Classic Cars from the 30s. In addition, Martock Army Cadet Force provided a display of field crafts and cadet training and 2381 (Ilminster) Air Cadets gave invaluable assistance to the Merryfield staff throughout the evening.
The ‘special flying displays’ showcased the highly acclaimed RN Raider’s Parachute Display Team, a Chipmunk from the Royal Navy Historic Flight and the Black Cats Lynx Mk 8 helicopter display team.