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Cormorant on flight deck
Getting a little encouragement
A long way to the ski-jump

HMS Illustrious launches rare bird

Published: 21 Oct 2013

A rare bird took the opportunity to pop on board Portsmouth based Amphibious Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious to dry its feathers, preen and re-waterproof its plumage. The bird, a Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis, is a threatened species and is endemic to the Gulf and South East Arabian Peninsula coast where Illustrious is patrolling.

Unfortunately, HMS Illustrious was at ‘flying stations’ at the time, about to launch aircraft from the embarked Tailored Air Group which includes Apache, Sea King and Lynx helicopters.

Following a little prompting, the cormorant was first down the runway and flying into the distance.

Leading Engineering Technician Robbie Roberts, spotted the bird and escorted it along the flightdeck.

He said:

“We’re used to clearing the deck of any items that might damage the helicopters before flying begins - nuts, bolts, keys, pens – not cormorants.

“It had a funny walk which I couldn’t help copying.

"It didn’t seem to mind and the deck hands had a good laugh.

"With a little bit of encouragement, we managed to get the bird to ‘take off’ so our more normal flying operations could resume.”

HMS Illustrious is the UK’s high readiness amphibious assault carrier. Based in Portsmouth, “Lusty” as she is affectionately known by her ship’s company, is part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG), currently deployed on Cougar 13.

The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, survey vessels, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required.

The Cougar 13 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, and Horn of Africa.

It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC Royal Navy.


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