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Birmingham URNU
Squirrel with students embarked
Squirrel simulator

Birmingham URNU on flying visit

Published: 12 Dec 2012

Last week 10 students from Birmingham University Royal Navy Unit made the 50 mile journey to RAF Shawbury for a flying afternoon.

To complicate matters, this was to take up an invitation from a Navy Lieutenant helicopter instructor (Lt Ben Brazenell) with an Army Squadron (660 Army Air Corp Squadron) at the Defence Helicopter Flying School at an RAF Base – truly a joint day for the students from the most landlocked URNU in the country. Mid Sam Herrmann, from Birmingham City University, said: "We got really excited when the Boss announced he’d organised an afternoon’s flying at RAF Shawbury. We took 10 students, although the Boss was inundated with volunteers from the 60 students in our URNU."

Lt Si Shaw, CO of BURNU and HMS Exploit, said: “Our main focus with the students is quite rightly to take them to sea in Exploit and expose them to the sea environment whilst passing on the Naval message. However we also engage in Adventurous Training and where possible other military activities so as to get the defence message across to our young URNU Mids – who are the leaders of tomorrow. The visit to 660 Squadron allowed us to do just that."

The 10 chosen students donned a pair of flying overalls (which led to the inevitable Top Gun style poses and photos), a flying helmet and gloves, and then enjoyed an afternoon’s flying over the clear, crisp skies of Shropshire on a cold winter’s day. Every naval, army and air force pilot, along with international students from countries like Iraq, pass through the doors of the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury.

The URNU students were able to mix with some of these pilots in the Officer’s Mess and Crew room before and after their flying sortie in the Squirrel Aircraft. Mid Holly Griffiths, an air engineering bursar from Warwick University, was able to discuss her future career with the newly joined Royal Navy pilots at 660 Sqn. Although the squadron is Army, it trains navy and army pilots using navy and army instructors. The next stage for the Navy pilot is type training at an RN air station on either Lynx, Merlin or Sea King. Some students were allowed to sit in the front of the Squirrel and “fly” the helicopter, with interesting results. However all the students enjoyed a sortie in the Squirrel Helicopter Simulator, where for some even taking off was too difficult. Mid Alex Kay, from nearby Harper Adams University College, said: "In the simulator, once I’d mastered taking off, I was able to fly over my university at Newport, Shropshire, buzz my lecturers and return for tea and stickies…”

Lt Si Shaw added: “At the end of the day, the students didn’t want to hand back their flying overalls and in some cases we had to prise them off the Mids! Days like this help reinforce the Naval message and particularly support the Fleet Air Arm – it think we may see a peak in pilot recruitment when my these students graduate! Our main effort is to get the students to sea in Exploit, but occasionally we have green Army days in trenches with the OTC and flying days such as this."


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