End of an era for Navy Observer, start of a Flying Career for Young Aviator
Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose and 750 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) said a very fond farewell to one of its most experienced aviators as Mr Rhod Cox flew his last sortie. Rhod has spent a total of 22 years instructing on 750 NAS. This squadron is responsible for training Observers, the Fleet Air Arm’s Airborne Combat Systems Officers. Rhod’s student for the final sortie was Lieutenant Wayne Henaghen.
Royal Navy Observers are the tactician’s of the aircraft. The pilot’s job is to get the aircraft where it needs to go; the Observer’s to fight the aircraft. The students spend 16 weeks on 750 NAS. Here they learn navigation skills how use radar tactically to find ships.
Prior to 750 NAS, the student aircrew have a number of phases to complete. It all starts with flying aptitude tests to assess their future employability, and if successful they then go to the Admiralty Interview Board. If they pass, they are off to Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) at Dartmouth in Devon for Royal Navy Officer training. A few more courses follow, then the real flying starts. Training begins at 703 Squadron Observer Training Flight at RAF Cranwell for 13 weeks before moving to 750 NAS for 16 weeks on the new King Air ‘Avenger’ aircraft. Following on from 750 NAS the students learn winching and other ‘secondary’ roles at RAF Valley in Anglesey. They then start their operational training on Merlin on 824 NAS at Culdrose or Wildcat on 702 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton where they gain their Wings.
To be an observer you need to be able to multi task, be good at prioritisation and decision making. You also need the all the qualities possessed by Naval Officers of leadership, teamwork, communication skills and personnel development. Once fully trained they join front line squadrons where they embark in Royal Navy ships and can operate anywhere in the world defending Britain’s interests.
Rhod joined the RN in 1979, and has flown 7 aircraft types, the Wessex, Seaking, 2, 5, 6 and 7, Jetstream and Avenger. He has over 6000 hours flying as either an instructor or on a frontline squadron. His legacy to 750 NAS is that he instructed the majority of personnel now serving on the Squadron as instructors including the Commanding Officer.
The pilots in Rhod’s final sortie were Roger Macdonald and Andy Moss. Roger has 14,500 flying hours and Andy 10,000, making the combined hours of the staff in the crew of over 20,000. This was a great opportunity for the young trainee observer to gain a lot of knowledge from a crew of very experienced aircrew.
We all wish Rhod the very best in his retirement.