Royal Navy trainee pilots land aboard RFA Wave Ruler

Engineers and aircrew from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose’s Merlin training Squadron took to the high seas recently to allow eight trainee aviators to carry out their first deck landings and secondary roles training.

Along with their flying instructors as well as 20 air engineers from 824 Naval Air Squadron, the pilots were embarked for a fortnight in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Wave Ruler to complete the embarked section of their operational conversion phase (OCP) training.

“It’s great to get to this stage after five long years of flying training,” said Lieutenant Nicholas Allen, one of the student pilots on 01/15 course.

“I can finally say that I have landed a helicopter onto the deck of a ship. It’s a big moment for me and the rest of the course, we’ve been through so much together. The next big step will hopefully be in the near future when we begin landing our Merlins on board the new Aircraft Carriers; HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.”

01/15 course embarked primarily to get the pilots up to speed with landing their ten and half tonne Merlin helicopters on a moving, pitching and rolling deck, both day and night, as well as carrying out what is called secondary roles training.

This involves putting the rear seat aircrew through their paces on winching practices; helicopter in-flight refuelling (HIFR), under slung load operations from ship to ship (VERTREP) and stretcher transfers where they exercise winching casualties from a ship.

This is the final phase of the course’s training before the three pilots, four observers and one aircrewman pick up their converted ‘Navy Wings’ in a formal parade at RNAS Culdrose later in the year.