AVIATORS GET THEIR FLYING WINGS AND THE ROYAL SEAL OF APPROVAL
34 years after his own ‘Wings Parade’ at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose, HRH The Duke of York KG, today presented nine student aviators with their Fleet Air Arm ‘Wings’.
After several years of hard work and determination, three Pilots, four Observers and two Aircrewmen were awarded with their ‘Flying Wings’ at a formal ceremony proudly attended by their families, friends and senior officers from the Royal Navy. As well as the celebrated award of “Wings”, an Air Traffic Controller was also presented with his Certificate of Competence.
The ceremony which marks the official start of a flying career within the Fleet Air Arm, was performed in the hangar of 849 Naval Air Squadron (NAS). This ‘Wings Parade’ was particularly important for the Air Station, marking two very special milestones; the last ever Sea King helicopter Wings were awarded (the aircraft will go out of service in 2018) and the first Wings were awarded to students who have trained exclusively on the latest Merlin helicopter – the MK2.
For the students, the Wings Parade is a very important day, but today was made even more special by the presence of a member of the Royal family, and someone who once stood in their shoes. The Guest of Honour was based at RNAS Culdrose during the 1980s, and like today’s Wings recipients, The Duke of York carried out his flying training and joined his first frontline squadron at the Cornish Air Station.
Then ‘Sub Lieutenant’ Prince Andrew, HRH began his helicopter flying training on 705 NAS and in April 1981, was presented with his ‘Wings’ by The Duke of Edinburgh. Sub Lieutenant Prince Andrew then converted onto the Sea King helicopter, completing advanced and operational flying training with 706 NAS, before joining his first front-line unit: 820 NAS (still based at RNAS Culdrose).
Reflecting on his own career within the Fleet Air Arm and his own Wings Parade ‘in a hangar not too far from this one’, The Duke of York congratulated the aviators on their achievements and wished them well in their future careers. Speaking from his own experience of flying a Sea King helicopter, he said that it was ‘sad to see an old friend coming to the end of a career’ but that he looked forward to a future where the ‘Fleet Air Arm continues to be of importance to the nation.’
The Commanding Officer of 849 Naval Air Squadron, Commander Roger Kennedy, whose Squadron hosted the Wings Parade said: “Today is a very special day. It is the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication for the students, and a celebration of their success. Reaching the end of the course and being awarded Wings is a considerable achievement and there is no greater reward for all those involved in the training to see them standing here on the day. It is also the end of an era – we will never see another Sea King Wings Parade. The Sea King is still operational and will continue to serve on the frontline until its capabilities transfer to the Merlin helicopter.”
Commanding Officer of RNAS Culdrose, Captain Adrian Orchard OBE said: “I wish those who have received their Wings today, the very best of luck in their future flying careers. They are graduating at a very exciting time for the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm.”
“We were delighted that fellow Fleet Air Arm aviator HRH The Duke of York could present the Wings today. It was great to be able to show him the new Merlin helicopter and update him regarding the bright future facing Culdrose. With the Royal Navy’s new Aircraft Carriers due to come into service soon, we are looking forward to operating large numbers of aircraft from the flight decks of ships again - something that His Royal Highness will remember well from his flying days in the Fleet Air Arm.”