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Lt Si Wilson and W5856
Lt Si Wilson flying over Somerset in W5856
Lt Si Wilson flying over Somerset in W5856
Lt Si Wilson flying over Somerset in W5856


Published: 07 Aug 2016

SWORDFISH Pilot achieves 100 hours of flight completing his one hundredth hour at the controls of the oldest surviving Fairey Swordfish in the world that first flew on Trafalgar Day (21 October) 1941!


Lieutenant (Lt) Simon Wilson, a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) from 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) achieved this milestone during transit between air displays at Newcastle airport over the weekend and records would indicate that this is the first time since WW11 that this amount of hours has been achieved on this aircraft type.


Lt Wilson said, “It is a great privilege to fly such an iconic aircraft and to have achieved 100 hours, something I am very proud of. The aircraft is only allowed to fly for a small number of hours each season and I have been lucky enough to have flown the Swordfish since 2011.”


Lt Wilson has flown both the Mark 1 and Mark 2 Swordfish since 2011 something that he achieves alongside his day job, instructing transitioning aircrew on the next generation of Royal Naval Wildcat Helicopters.


Lt Wilson continued; “I have been lucky enough to have flown the MkI, W5856 and MkII, LS326. It is a great honour to fly W5856 in particular as she is the only MkI in existence anywhere in the world, there aren't any in museums! I hope to be able to fly many more Swordfish hours in the future there is nothing else quite like her anywhere in the world, quite literally!”


Nicknamed the “stringbag” because the crews felt that the Swordfish, like a shopping bag, could carry anything, W5856 was grounded with corrosion in her wing spars in 2003 and her future looked uncertain. BAE Systems stepped in and constructed a new set of wings which were delivered to the Royal Navy Historic Flight in 2012.


W5856 was finally restored to full flying condition and saved for the nation by a major grant from the Peter Harrison Heritage Foundation and the aircraft re-joined the display circuit in 2015, painted in the pre-war colours of 810 Squadron embarked in HMS Ark Royal.


At the same time in 2015 the latest generation of multi role helicopter and Lt Wilson’s day ‘job aircraft’, stood up at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton with the front line units, the oldest and the youngest aircraft flying out of the home of the Fleet Air Arm.


Lt Wilson is about to complete a second milestone in the next few weeks, 3000 military flying hours. Well done Simon!


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