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Farewell to Fleet Air Arm instructor

Published: 14 Jul 2023

The Fleet Air Arm has bid farewell to a helicopter pilot, instructor and Falklands veteran who joined the Royal Navy 44 years ago.

During his last 20 years with 824 Naval Air Squadron, Lieutenant Commander Steve Gibson has helped train every Merlin Mk2 pilot in the navy.

He is pictured (right) being presented with a gold valedictory certificate from his friend and former colleague on 814 Naval Air Squadron Admiral Sir George Zambellas, at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.

The 68-year-old said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving in the Fleet Air Arm. It has always been a real passion for me. Serving with 824 squadron for over twenty years as an instructor has rewarded me with a real love of Merlin and I shall inevitably miss it.”

In his early 20s after a short time working in marketing, Lt Cdr Gibson said he realised­ –­ during a depressing press conference for a new toilet cleaner – that he wanted a more exciting and demanding career.

He was interested in flying and had trained as a pilot before he made the decision to join the Royal Navy in 1979 at the age of 26.

Not long after completing his training, he found himself very much in the frontline - part of the task force sent to liberate the Falkland Islands in 1982. He served as a Sea King pilot with 826 Naval Air Squadron on carrier HMS Hermes. 

Speaking last year of his experiences in the South Atlantic, he said: “We were quite lucky on our squadron in that we didn’t lose anyone but I saw some sights that did affect me. I witnessed a Sea Harrier explode just after take-off and all those pictures you see of HMS Sheffield as a burning hulk, our crew took those pictures. I’ll never forget that.”

In 1988 he left the regular service but remained a member of the Royal Navy Reserves. He said: “When I was serving as a reservist, I’d give all my holiday to the navy. One of my regrets was having left in the first place, because my heart was always with the Navy.”

In 2003, he took the opportunity to rejoin RNAS Culdrose as a full-time reservist and began work at training unit 824 Naval Air Squadron. He worked as an instructor on the mark 1 and mark 2 Merlin helicopters and later moved to the pilot simulator.


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