ZIPPY’S FINAL FLIGHT
A popular aviator recieved a surprise when he took his final search and rescue flight and discovered that the aircraft was being piloted by Rear Admiral Blount, the Head of the Fleet Air Arm.
A long serving member of 771 Naval Air Squadron and a stalwart of the ‘Aircrewman Branch’, Warrant Officer Ian ‘Zippy’ Thompson took his final flight during a routine Search and Rescue (SAR) sortie. In the cockpit of the Sea King Mk5 aircraft was Rear Admiral Keith Blount, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aircraft & Carriers) who Ian served with in the earlier stages of his naval career.
Rear Admiral Blount was making his first visit to RNAS Culdrose in his new role in charge of the Fleet Air Arm. Ian served with Rear Admiral Blount when they were both on 705 Naval Air Squadron. Ian said: “I was totally surprised when the Rear Admiral joined the sortie brief for the flight as my pilot.”
For his leaving gift he was presented with a Sea King helictoper Mk5 tail rotor blade. Of his time serving on the SAR squadron based at RNAS Culdrose he said: “I have had a fanstatic time with some wonderful memories. I’m proud to have served with such a professional and hard working team at 771 Naval Air Squadron in my final appointment with Royal Navy.”
Ian, who joined the Royal Navy in 1978, has completed over 34 years of flying and ammassed over 4,000 flying hours in Sea King, Merlin and Gazelle aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. Initially joining as a Junior Seaman Operator on 24th January 1979, he transferred to the Aircrewman Branch in October 1982, serving with distinction in squadrons including 814, 826, 820, 705, 810, 824, NFSF and finally 771 NAS.
Ian will not leave the aviation world and has already joined the Royal Navy Reserve Air Branch. He will use his previous SAR experience as he joins Bristows UK as a SAR Winchman with the recently contractorised MCA UK SAR service at Lydd Airport, Kent.