New Guardians of Royal Navy Flight Decks ‘Pass In’
This morning, a group of Naval Airmen passed out of training and officially into the Aircraft Handling branch of the Fleet Air Arm. It will be these Sailors and their fellow Aircraft Handlers, who will ensure that the flight decks of Royal Navy ships are ‘safe in these hands’.
A special ‘Passing in Parade’, held at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, marked the completion of the final stage of basic training, before the sailors move on to further courses at Culdrose or placements to give them more experience.
Having spent the past seven months developing their skills at the Royal Naval School of Flight Deck Operations, they are keen to use all that they have learned to support aviation on board Royal Navy ships. Over half of them will now go on to help safeguard the flight decks of our Nation’s new Aircraft Carriers; HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. Their new drafts begin next week.
As the motto of the Aircraft Handling branch states, every day of their careers, the new recruits will aim to keep the Royal Navy’s aircrew and aircraft ‘Nostris in Manibus Tuti - Safe in These Hands’.
There is no margin for error when operating with live aircraft on a real flight deck at sea, therefore training is as realistic as possible. Much of their course has taken place on the ‘fire ground’ at the Air Station, where they have learned to use fire rescue equipment designed to save lives on the flight deck during emergencies at sea. They have also worked on the Royal Navy's own unique ‘Dummy Deck’ which is an exact replica of a real Aircraft Carrier’s flight deck, complete with moving Harrier jets, real Merlin helicopters and other aircraft.
The course uses real models of F-35B jets during training. Four life-size replicas of the F-35 Lightning II jets, which will soon fly from HMS Queen Elizabeth, help flight deck teams to learn the art of working with the world’s most advanced warplanes. While they have no engines, sensors or weapons, the four replica F-35s allow ‘Handlers’ to get used to the size and weight of the real thing – without the danger of damaging a multi-million pound stealth fighter.
Family and friends proudly watched as the branch badges were awarded at the special ceremony. The Naval Airmen were presented with their certificates and awards by Commodore Jamie Miller CBE (retired).
Following the passing in ceremony, the Naval Airmen changed from ‘Number One’ uniforms into their working rig to give a demonstration of how aircraft are moved around a ships flight deck as they are prepared for take-off. This was followed by another change of clothes; into their protective fire-fighting equipment and the Naval Airmen then demonstrated how to fight a fire.
Images: PO David Gallagher