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Lt Cdr Stu Bainbridge receiving his champagne from 824 CO, Cdr Steve Thomas
Merlin Mk 2’s at RNAS Culdrose
Merlin Mk 2 load lifting over RFA Argus


Published: 25 Mar 2015

A Royal Naval Pilot from RNAS Culdrose has reached an important and rare flying milestone in his service career.


Lieutenant Commander Stu Bainbridge has clocked up an impressive 5000 flying hours at the controls of military helicopters on operations and as an instructor. In real terms this equates to almost 210 days permanently airborne. It’s all the more impressive to have achieved this in just 24 years of flying.


Stu joined the Royal Navy in 1990, graduating with his flying “Wings” on the Sea King Mk 5 helicopter in 1996. Since then he has served on Royal Naval Air Station’s at Prestwick in Scotland and Culdrose inCornwall. He is also a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) and has taught at the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury inShropshire. During his career he has flown three versions of the Sea King Mk’s4, 5 and 6, both Merlin Mk 1 and 2, the Squirrel and Lynx. Stu was also a member of the dreaded “Trappers” team who are part of Naval Flying Standards Flight, responsible for ensuring that Royal Navy Pilots, Observers and Aircrewman can still make the grade.


He has operated this selection of aircraft from a long list of warships and auxiliaries including: RFA’s Olwen, Olna, Argus,FortVictoria,FortGeorge and HMS’s Illustrious, Ark Royal, Invincible and Northumberland as its Flight Commander.

 Former Squadrons include: 819 inScotland, 820, 824& 829 at Culdrose, 660 at Shawbury and latterly as an agent of theCentralFlyingSchool(helicopters) at Naval Flying Standards Flight. It was at NFSF that Stu put to good use his A2 QHI qualification, providing assurance, maintaining flying standards and safety across all rotary aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm.


Stu was greeted from his 5000 hours flight by his Commanding Officer, Commander Steve Thomas, bearing a bottle ofCornwall’s finest champagne followed by a slap up feed on traditional Fleet Air Arm buns to assist in his ongoing fight against burgeoning cholesterol levels.


“Being recognised for a achieving this milestone is a really great and humbling experience for me,” said Stu. “It seems only yesterday I was starting my flying career with the Royal Navy. I’ve come a long way in the past 24 years and I have some fantastic memories.”


Although Stu recently retired from regular service in the Royal Navy, he continues to provide invaluable service in the form of a Royal Naval Reserve Air Branch pilot and flying instructor for 824NAS where students and staff alike benefit from his significant experience and knowledge.


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