Aspiring Pilots Take to the Air in Scotland
A group of aspiring young Naval aviators had the opportunity to fly at RAF Leuchars in Fife recently. Although a Royal Air Force Station, a detachment of 727 Naval Air Squadron flew in from the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset to spend a few days conducting Air Experience Flights.
For some it was a new experience whilst others, who had flown before, made use of the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a naval pilot. All agreed it was a fantastic opportunity although most admitted to a mixture of emotions, ranging from sheer terror to absolutely thrilling.
727 Squadron conducts Initial Flying Grading for the Royal Navy using the two-seat Grob Tutor, where all aircrew in the Fleet Air Arm learn the basics before moving on to more specialist training. Even helicopter pilots and observers undergo this initial training in a ‘fixed-wing’ aircraft.
With the sudden demise of the Harrier fleet as a result of the Strategic Defence Review, people might be forgiven for thinking that the Royal Navy aren’t looking for potential fast jet pilots at the moment, but this is not the case. The training pipeline for any pilot is extensive and with the UK having just taken delivery of the first F-35B Lightning II, or joint Strike Fighter as it’s commonly referred to, the clock is already ticking down to the day when the first of these 5th Generation Stealth aircraft begin taking off from HMS Queen Elizabeth one of the two new aircraft carriers, currently under assembly in near-by Rosyth dockyard.
The prospective aviators are at various stages of the application process to join the Royal Navy and the experience gained during these flights has given them a better understanding of what lies ahead. It also provided confirmation, if any were needed, that a flying career in the Navy was what they were looking for.
Lieutenant Commander Glenn Allison, Commanding Officer of 727 NAS said, “727 Squadron has been providing Air Experience Flying (AEF) to potential officers and cadets for a number of years now. For some it is their first opportunity to experience the thrill of flying. Potential candidates receive instruction during their sortie and are required to replicate manoeuvres taught to them. This allows us to provide some useful feedback to them that will hopefully help them in their future endeavours. The opportunity to “spin dits” and talk to them about flying training and the interesting and hair-raising moments we have had in our careers seems to be well received.”
One of the Staff Pilots was Commodore Martin Westwood who, these days, deals with aviation policy for the Royal Navy, was happy to offer his services and described how flying with the Fleet Air Arm was uniquely challenging. “There are days when you realise you have the best job in the world and you have great fun, but there’s also days when you absolutely earn every penny.”
With a story to tell Lieutenant Ashleigh Sturt a Junglie Pilot, currently serving in Scotland, was on hand to share her experiences on the Front-line with the wide-eyed newbie’s. “It’s was really good to meet the future pilots and aircrew of the Fleet Air Arm. We do some extraordinary flying in the Royal Navy whether it’s at sea from the back of a Warship or as in my case from the Deserts of Afghanistan. You couldn’t ask for a more exciting career!”