820 Naval Air Squadron has embarked on-board aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed recently for the first phase of trials that will ultimately see the carrier declared safe to fly Chinook, Merlin, Wildcat and Apache attack helicopters in addition to F-35 jets later in the year.
The aim of the trials say the Royal Navy is to ‘work out the conditions that the aircraft can operate in while at sea on the carrier’. They will collect data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions, before processing the information and ultimately declaring that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.
Until yesterday, 820 Squadron’s aircraft, equipment and personnel have been based ashore and simply flown on and off the ship according to the Royal Navy who say:
“Today marks the first time that any Squadron will embark the ship, that is, move their people, kit and helicopters on-board to live and operate there 24 hours a day. Whilst it is normal for 820 NAS to be operating from sea (having done so from HMS Ocean for seven out of the previous 12 months), it will be a new experience for HMS Queen Elizabeth to have a whole Squadron on board.
For the duration of the embarkation, 820 NAS will be using their Merlin helicopters to provide the carrier with aviation assets to train and to test their equipment with. The Mk2 Merlin helicopters are also fully capable of providing search and rescue cover 24 hours a day from the ship.”
The Squadron’s Senior Pilot, Lt Cdr Steve Moseley, was very much looking forward to embarking:
“For us as maritime helicopter pilots, it has been an amazing experience being the first to work with our new aircraft carrier from the beginning. We have been itching to get on the ship rather than operate with her from ashore. We all joined the Fleet Air Arm to operate aircraft at sea, and to be the first to do it on-board HMS Queen Elizabeth is very exciting.”
LAET Chris Lewis is an engineer on 820 NAS. He added:
“Maintaining aircraft at sea is always challenging. We have to work in confined hangar spaces on a pitching and rolling deck – you can’t even put a screwdriver down without it rolling away and getting lost!
But having just joined HMS Queen Elizabeth, I’m gobsmacked at how good our facilities are on here. There’s so much space, it makes our lives significantly easier.”