Olympic Navy Lynx force returns to Yeovilton
Following the spectacular closing ceremony of the Paralympic games in London, the final element of the Air and Maritime security of the Games has been released and the Lynx elicopters have landed safely back at their base at the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton. The three Lynx Mk 8 Helicopters left HMS Ocean berthed at Greenwich in the River Thames and flew back to their Somerset Air Base.
Based on board the Royal Navy’s largest Warship HMS Ocean, the Lynx helicopters have been deployed from their Yeovilton base for the duration of the Olympic Games. A large than normal detachment of over 60 personnel made up of engineers, aircrew and support staff. HMS Ocean’s role as an Amphibious Assault Ship would normally be to deliver troops to the centre of the action by helicopter or landing craft. She has six helicopter operating spots on her flight deck and the large hangar can hold many more aircraft. “It has been an absolute honour and a privilege to command these men and women. The role has been demanding, and required the aircraft and maintainers to remain at a very high readiness state for hour upon hour upon hour – From Dawn until Dusk every day since 13th July, a truly remarkable effort” Said Lieutenant Commander Nigel Cunningham, Detachment Commander of the Navy Lynx Force on HMS Ocean.
Nigel’s job as the Detachment Commander of the Naval Lynx Force has seen him onboard HMS Ocean for most of the Summer working with the Police and LOCOG; the London Organising committee responsible for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as part of the headquarters staff from the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force, he’s been living breathing and sleeping with the games for well over a year.
The aviation safety aspects of operating from HMS Ocean in the middle of the Thames at the heart one of the busiest Capital City’s in the world has produced many challenges. Much of the daily tasking has started very early in the morning and throughout the day its been constant updates with briefs and planning, keeping everything on track should the worst possible scenario occurs. “Operating in this unusual battlespace has brought with it a series of demanding and challenging problems. Nigel continues. The ship was berthed just yards from the Olympic Equestrian events which, as you can imagine meant we had to establish different routines for launching and recovering the aircraft in order to protect the horses from the Helicopter noise”.
The Lynx crews flying during the Olympic and Paralympics have had the best seats in the house, enjoying the spectacle of the games and the opening and closing ceremonies from very unusual angles. “We started exercising and rehearsing for the London events so long ago now; it’s been amazing to be part of it. I believe that everyone in uniform has made a lasting contribution to the success of the games in more ways than one. Not only has it been great for us to meet the public but they’ve had a chance to get to know us”.
Despite the constant rounds of briefings, endless streams of VIP Visitors and exhausting long days, the Naval Lynx Force has enjoyed their Golden moment at the Heart of the Olympic Festival 2012.