SAINTS AND SINNERS RETURN
It was an emotional and rewarding return to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose for the “Sinners” Merlin Flight of 829 Squadron recently, after an action packed nine-month tour of the Mediterranean and Gulf.
Why the “Sinners”? – as the state of the art aircraft attached to HMS St Albans – “Saints” – they were clearly the wicked reach that the ship had to call on during operations.
However it was all heavenly smiles at Culdrose as the flight returned to their loved ones and an enthusiastic welcome from their proud families and children sporting their “Daddy on Deployment” medals.
The youngest member of the Flight – Air Engineering Technician Scott McCrellis said: “The deployment was fun, something of a new experience, challenging at times and expensive beer. I've seen a lot of places that I never thought I would ever go; and the best part will be getting home after nine months to get back on my motorcycle.”
Having left the UK in early December 2015, the Flight has seen a number of specific highlights including: seizure of 320kg of cannabis (£3 million pounds street value), operating with the French Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle, being a top attraction at the prestigious Bahrain Air Show and improving the operational capability of the embarked Royal Marines fast roping techniques.
“A highlight for me was the integration with the ship,” said LAET Daniel Sprules. “The sailors of the ship and the flight have really worked together well and you get lifetime friendships out of it all. In fact some of us have even volunteered to stay onboard so that we can have completed every single day with our shipmates. I’ve seen so much on this trip, now I am really looking forward to some home time!”
Over the longer term it has been in this area of integration where the flight has achieved some even more notable achievements than the one off highlights. In addition to working with the FS Charles de Gaul they also co-operated with the USS Harry S Truman, the Cypriot forces in Search and Rescue exercises, and they are the only Merlin Flight to date that has operated permanently on the same small deck with the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial system.
The Flight Commander Lieutenant Andy Carter said: “This deployment has demanded a lot from 01 Flight: They’ve spent 9 months, including Christmas, away from their families, worked long days to keep the aircraft available for tasking and regularly had to conduct their work in temperatures in excess of 45 degrees Celsius. All the team have delivered everything that has been asked of them and more. As a result, we’ve had an exceptional flying rate which has enabled us to make a significant contribution to maritime and global security. I am incredibly proud of everyone on the Flight and hope that they all now enjoy some well-deserved downtime with their families and friends.”
The flight achieved over 90% serviceability and completed all operational tasking, flying more than 270 hours over 180 sorties. They also operated from the decks of 8 ships and landed at 11 airfields.