The Royal Navy’s second aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales has welcomed the first aircraft on its flight deck as it embarks on its maiden trials off the Scottish coast.
Less than 24 hours after the ship sailed into open waters for the first time, a Merlin helicopter was guided safely into land on the expansive deck.
The Merlin landed and took off six times as various problems and emergencies were practiced by the air and ground crew, while HMS Prince of Wales’ air traffic controllers guided the helicopter fliers in circuits around the aircraft carrier.
Directing the inaugural landing from the second of HMS Prince of Wales two distinctive towers was the naval officer in charge of all flying operations conducted by the ship, Commander Air (aka ‘Wings’) Commander Phil Richardson.
He hailed “a momentous occasion” for the Royal Navy.
“The ability to fly fast jets and helicopters from two fifth-generation Royal Navy aircraft carriers puts the UK at the very forefront of maritime aviation.”
HMS Prince of Wales left Rosyth dockyard in Fife, where she has been pieced together over the past eight years, on Thursday.
After a couple of days conducting final training at anchor in the Forth – including the firefighting and emergency teams practicing coping with the event of an aircraft crashing on deck – HMS Prince of Wales put to sea on Sunday, passing beneath the three bridges spanning the Forth upstream of Edinburgh.
She will spend the next couple of months completing her initial period of sea trials – with helicopters her principal ink with mainland UK – before debuting in her home base of Portsmouth, where she will be commissioned before the end of the year.