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Search and rescue training on the Isles of Scilly

21 June 2016
A training exercise carried out by a helicopter from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose offered a spectacular treat to tourist at the Abby Gardens on the Isle of Scilly recently.

The Merlin of 814 Naval Air Squadron – ‘The Flying Tigers’ - was taking part in ‘Exercise Flower Power’ as part of the unit’s training before embarking onto HMS Ocean and a deployment to the Mediterranean. 

Guests and visitors had front row seats as the 12-ton Merlin winched one of its crew to the lawn in front of the main house and gardens.

"Training like this is invaluable," said Lieutenant Nick Grimmer, one of the pilots taking part in the exercise. 

The Isles of Scilly may not be the Caribbean or the Far East but skills we practice in locations like this will be applicable wherever we are in the world.

Lieutenant Max White RN

"Last year I found myself off the coast of Africa giving humanitarian assistance to the people of Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis.

“The skills we practice here have direct relevance to jobs we get tasked to do, often at very short notice."

The ‘Flying Tigers’ are expert submarine hunters but can be called upon to do a host of jobs, including Search and Rescue and delivering humanitarian assistance.

All new aircrew undertake expert training at the Search and Rescue Training Unit at RAF Valley in Wales, where Prince William served during his military flying career.

"The Isles of Scilly may not be the Caribbean or the Far East but skills we practice in locations like this will be applicable wherever we are in the world," said Lieutenant Max White.

"Being Anti-Submarine specialists we do most of our flying over the sea and rescue drills are essential for our job. 

"It’s not often we do these in front of the public and it added some  extra pressure when over 100 people are watching us!

“It’s always great to see how much interest everyone has in the Royal Navy especially on the Isles of Scilly.”

The scenario saw the crew locate the island utilising the Merlin’s navigation aids and then conduct a reconnaissance before landing. 

After a thorough look from the air, they winched down a crewmember, as the exercise dictated that the site was unsuitable to land.

"In Sierra Leone there were occasions when we couldn't land, but we still needed to meet locals to assess their needs.

“In these circumstances winching a crewmember or a medic in some cases, meant we could still target supplies and offer help where needed,” continued Lt Nick Grimmer.

The ‘Flying Tigers’ thanked all those who came to watch and wave during ‘Ex Flower Power’ as well as thanking the Tresco Estate for supporting their exercise.

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