Fleet Air Arms leads King's Coronation Flypast
Royal Navy Wildcat and Merlin helicopters will lead the historic flypast over Buckingham Palace for the King’s Coronation on Saturday.
Drawn from Fleet Air Arm squadrons, they will fly in the first section, immediately behind the military’s training helicopters.
In total 64 helicopters and aeroplanes from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force, including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows, will take part in the spectacular event over central London at 2.30pm.
Representing the Royal Navy will be a Wildcat Mk2 helicopter from RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, followed by a pair of submarine-hunting Merlin Mk2 helicopters from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.
Next in line will be a second Wildcat from the Commando Helicopter Force’s 847 Naval Air Squadron flanked by a two Royal Marin-transporting Merlin Mk4 helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron.
In charge of the lead Wildcat, from 825 Naval Air Squadron, is observer Lieutenant Commander Adrian ‘Paddy’ McWilliams, who is now in his 37th year in the Royal Navy.
He said: “This is potentially my last flight as I am due to join the Defence Accident Investigation Branch later in the month of May – and what a memorable last flight it should be.”
Alongside him will be pilot Lieutenant Scott Sunderland, a training instructor who is also a part of the Royal Navy’s helicopter display team.
He added: “Taking part in the King’s Coronation Flypast is a huge honour and will be made even more special for me as my first baby is due on 18 July. I am hugely grateful to the Wildcat Force for allowing me this privilege and it will be a great story to tell my child when he or she is older.”
The Merlin Mk2s come from the Merlin Helicopter Force, drawn together from 820 and 824 Naval Air Squadrons.
Commanding one of the Merlins is 44-year-old pilot Lieutenant Commander Paul ‘Jack’ Ryan, who said: “This is our chance to pay our respects to our new ‘commander-in-chief’ – we are after all His Majesty’s Armed Forces. I’ve flown over London before but not over The Mall and Buckingham Palace.”
Sitting next to him will be pilot Lieutenant Dan Cochrane, on exchange from the Royal Australian Navy, while in the rear, one of the aircrew is 28-year-old Lieutenant James Firth, from Guernsey.
Lieutenant Firth, an airborne surveillance and control observer, added: “It’s very exciting. I am only six months into my first frontline tour and something like this is a once-in-a-career opportunity.”
The full flypast will take six minutes to pass overhead, ending with the iconic Red Arrows. With true military precision, the entire event is being coordinated and timed with a margin of just five seconds leeway.