NAVY COMMANDER TOPS OUT AT 4000 FLYING HOURS
A Royal Navy Commander from RNAS Culdrose has ‘Topped-out’ his aviation career by reaching 4000 flying hours.
Commander Steve Thomas, Commanding Officer of 824 Naval Air Squadron completed the significant milestone as his time in charge of the Maritime Merlin training squadron finishes at the end of July.
Steve joined the Royal Navy in 1991 and after flying training, began his first front line tour as a Sea King Anti-Submarine Warfare Pilot with 814 NAS in 1996. Since then he has enjoyed a wide range of flying assignments with Sea King, Merlin and Squirrel helicopters including as a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) on the Merlin and Squirrel. He has served aboard the HMS Invincible class aircraft carriers, many Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and ashore at airfields across the globe from Scotland to the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. On the staff of Naval Flying Standards Flight between 2006 and 2008, he contributed to the oversight and assessment of aviation standards and practices across both the Fleet Air Arm and the wider Tri-service environment, and was the Senior Pilot of 820 NAS from 2010 to 2012.
His command of 824 NAS will be his last flying job in the Royal Navy. He has relished the opportunity to fly as much as possible within his busy schedule and enabling him to attain 4000 hours before he departs the Squadron.
Commander Thomas commented, “As I near the end of my 2 years at 824, it was fantastic to be able to reach this milestone in my own flying career. I can honestly say that of all the types of helicopter I have flown over the last 20 odd years, the Merlin Mk2 is the most flexible, capable and indeed the most enjoyable to fly. I will certainly miss both this incredible beast, and the amazing people I have been privileged to Command when I depart next month.”
He was greeted from his 4000 hour’s flight by his aircrew staff and 824 NAS Senior Pilot, Lieutenant Commander Ian Macfarlane, bearing a bottle of champagne and a cake, which did not last long in the crewroom!
Commander Steve Thomas will hand over the reins of 824 NAS at the end of July 2016 before departing to the Middle East for an operational Tour.