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Natalie Flying in a Sea King helicopter of 846 NAS

Naval aviator graduates from elite Commando Squadron

Published: 09 Mar 2012

Guernsey’s very own Sub Lt (S/Lt) Natalie Grainger (22), graduated recently from 848 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) which is part of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset.

In addition to earning her pilot wings she was also awarded the coveted Westland’s trophy, given to the best overall Pilot on course. Unlike previous aviation training courses, where she simply learnt how to fly various aircraft, 848 Naval Air Squadron was about to take her training to a higher level.

The ability to fly a helicopter to a high standard was taken for granted but right from the outset, the instructors challenged her to start thinking about operating the aircraft in a multitude of different environments and situations. All students were expected to fly the Sea King as second nature whilst having their captaincy and decision making process honed.

Natalie explained, “Fortunately, the instructors in 848 NAS are amongst the most skilled and experienced pilots in the business and the trainee aviators quickly begin picking up the techniques that would see them through not only to the end of the course but beyond into Afghanistan and other areas of the globe”.

The pilots of the CHF are recruited from the cream of the Royal Navy’s aviators. But to become a Commando aviator they must excel. A proportion of the trainees will not make it through the course, either because they are not good enough, or because they cannot take the intense psychological pressure and physical challenges. Flying helicopters in the Armed Services is a dangerous way to earn a living. Add combat to the mix, and you can see why the CHF are among Britain’s elite.

A graduate of Guernsey Grammar School, Natalie completed her GCSE’s and A-Level examinations in Sports Studies, Biology, and Psychology. While completing the selection process for joining the RN, she remained on the island and worked in finance.

Natalie left Guernsey for the first time and joined Britannia Royal Naval College, passing out in December 2008. Elementary Flying Training started in 2009 and nearly three years later she finds herself being presented with her Wings before moving to join 846 NAS on front line operations. An avid sports woman Natalie continues to represent the Royal Navy Women’s Football team whenever possible.



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