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Published: 26 Oct 2016

CHIEF Petty Officer (CPO) at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton notches up over 9000 flying hours in 9 different aircraft types with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Arm and achieves 100 hours with the only flying Mk1 Swordfish.

CPO Andy Vanes, born in Tipton West Midlands left school in 1970 aged 16 to join the Royal Navy initially training as a chef before transferring to the Aircrewman branch in 1977.

When I met with the equivalent of a Careers Officer at my Gloucestershire School he asked me what I wanted to really do. I wanted adventure and I quite liked the idea of being a Chef. He suggested the Army but I said I thought surely the Royal Navy would be better and that’s where I signed on the dotted line.”

After training at Lee on Solent and basic flying training in Wessex Mk1’s at RNAS Culdrose, Andy was streamed to the Wasp HAS Mk 1 and completed his operational flying training as a Missile Aimer at 703 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) at RNAS Portland. Appointments to HMS Naiad and HMS Ashanti followed before he qualified as a Wessex HU Mk.5 SAR crewman at 772 NAS. Further appointments to Wasps followed with the training team at 829 NAS and as the ships flight crewman onboard HMS Euryalus

In 1982, Andy completed Commando Operational flying training at 707 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton. The period during and after the Falklands conflict resulted in a number of short notice appointments to 772 ‘A’ Flight onboard HMS Illustrious, 771 Search and Rescue flight at RNAS Culdrose and 845 NAS on Ascension Island.

Eventually Andy returned to Yeovilton, the spiritual home of the Fleet Air Arm for the Sea King HC Mk 4 conversion course and subsequently 846 NAS. This was followed by an appointment as the Senior Aircrewman based at RNoAF Bardufoss in Norway and 707 NAS Commando Aircrew Training Sqn at Yeovilton.

In 1993 Andy left the Royal Navy and joined the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) Air Branch the following year. As a reservist, he joined Heron Flight (the Royal Navy’s communication flight) in 1998 as one of the operations team and subsequently flew as a qualified right hand seat crew member in the Jetstream T3 aircraft flying some 2800 hours until the demise of the unit in 2008.

Agusta Westland’s contracted Andy’s experience in 2010 to teach foreign students based in Vergiate in Italy and returned in 2012 to 848 NAS in their Operations room. It was now that joined the Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF) as a volunteer Swordfish crewman. As one of the Swordfish team he regularly occupies either the Observer or the Telegraphist Air Gunners (TAG) cockpit in the Swordfish when she is travelling around the country attending commemorations and air shows.

In 2014 he joined 825 NAS as their Chief Aircrewman flying in the very latest Navy helicopter the Wildcat HMA2 and this is where Andy currently brings his wealth of experience amassed over 46 years with the Royal Navy

With a total of over 9100 flying hours in 9 different aircraft types from the Royal Navy’s oldest Swordfish to the newest Wildcat HMA of which the last one will be delivered to 825 Naval Air Squadron on 25 October 2016 said Andy said;

I’ve had a few testing times but mostly is has been absolutely fantastic! Would I do it all again? Yes I would, of course I would.”

Aircraft flown by CPO Andy Vanes.

Wessex 1


Wessex 5

Sea King 4

Jetstream T3


Wildcat HMA2

Also flew in




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