Royal Navy helicopter aircrew earn their wings
Nine newly-qualified Merlin Mk2 helicopter aircrew were handed their ‘wings’ at a special parade at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.
It was a proud moment as the small, winged badges each mark the completion of three or four years of tough training - learning how to fly and how to work together to use the formidable Merlin helicopter as a weapon.
The three pilots, four observers and two aircrewmen will now enter frontline anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol operations in the Merlin Helicopter Force.
A small, socially distanced ceremony was held in the aircraft hangar of the training unit 824 Naval Air Squadron at the Helston air station.
Guest of honour at the parade was Vice Admiral Keith Blount, himself an anti-submarine warfare helicopter pilot and instructor and former head of the Fleet Air Arm. He now commands maritime forces with NATO. He was joined by RNAS Culdrose’s commanding officer Captain Stuart Finn.
Speaking at the parade, Commander James Taylor, the commanding officer of 824 Naval Air Squadron, said the event was “a fantastic day in the careers of the graduates” who had “earned the right to wear their wings on their sleeve.”
He added: “The graduates are foremost of course, having worked so hard for so long to get here, and today is about recognising their achievements.
“For me, what is equally important is to recognise the supporting role of friends and family. Our graduates would not be here without them. You are the ones who believed in them from the very beginning and who supported them through the long and demanding training.
“Thanks to you, here they are – ready to join the frontline and follow in the footsteps of our esteemed and illustrious Fleet Air Arm predecessors.”
The Merlin Mk2 helicopter force has two frontline squadrons, both based at RNAS Culdrose. With 820 Naval Air squadron away on the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, these graduates will now join 814 Naval Air Squadron, known as the Flying Tigers. The squadron operates from Royal Navy frigates to protect UK waters and the submarine-based nuclear deterrent.