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Aviators get their Flying Wings

12 June 2017
Thursday 8th June is an important day for the United Kingdom, but it will always be remembered by a group of trainee Royal Navy aviators and Air Traffic Controllers for a very different reason – the day they got their ‘Wings’.

After several years of hard work and determination, three Pilots, four Observers, two Aircrewmen and four Air Traffic Controllers were today awarded with their ‘Flying Wings’ and certificates of competency at a formal ceremony proudly attended by their families, friends and senior officers from the Royal Navy. 

The ceremony, which marks the official start of a flying career within the Fleet Air Arm, was performed this morning in the hangar of 824 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), the unit which trains students in every aspect of the Merlin helicopter, equipping them with the knowledge and skills that will be required once they deploy on operations at sea.  

It is the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication for the students, and a celebration of their success.

Commander Ian Fraser RN

824 Naval Air Squadron plays a vital role in training the Royal Navy’s future Pilots, Observers Aircrewmen and Engineers – those who will eventually serve on our Nation's latest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

Before the students take to the air, the students are taught in ‘ground school’ and undergo computer based training in specially designed helicopter simulators, enabling them to practice flying procedures in a controlled environment. 

During the ‘sea phase’, the final part of the course, the student must put all that they have learnt into practice but in the unforgiving environment of the sea. 

This ‘Wings Parade’ was particularly important for the Fleet Air Arm, with the first ever ‘Direct Entry’ Aircrewman Wings being awarded.

The two Aircrewman presented with their Wings today joined specifically to be part of this specialist branch, rather than being recruited from within the Royal Navy.

For the four Air Traffic Controllers, today marks the culmination of three year’s training. They will continue to control aircraft at Culdrose before taking up sea appoints on the new aircraft carriers.

Their initial training is conducted at RAF Shawbury, but they do not control real aircraft until they commence their training at Culdrose.

They found the training demanding but rewarding, highlights being when they have to deal with their first emergency when there is a technical issue with an aircraft.

For the students, the Wings Parade is a very important and emotional day, as the Commanding Officer of 824 Naval Air Squadron, Commander Ian Fraser said: “Today is a very special day.

“It is the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication for the students, and a celebration of their success. 

“Reaching the end of the course and being awarded Wings is a considerable achievement; I am very proud of their commitment. 

“They have proven that they are ready to conduct aviation in all weathers and in all environments, but most importantly, they are ready to fight the aircraft from the flight decks of ships at sea.

“The students will now be deployed to safeguard our nation’s interests on Royal Navy operations across the world.

Rear Admiral Keith Blount OBE, the Head of the Fleet Air Arm was the guest of honour at the parade.  

Having joined the Royal Navy as a helicopter pilot himself, he is fully aware of the importance of being presented with Wings. 

Addressing the students after he had presented them with their ‘Wings’, Admiral Blount highlighted the exciting times facing the new Naval Aviators, he said: “this is a very joyous occasion and you should feel immensely proud and satisfied.

“Soon you will be flying or controlling on operational sorties in the world class Merlin Mark 2 aircraft making big decisions that will test, challenge and reward you.

“You also join the family of the Fleet Air Arm, the best maritime fighting force in the world, flying from new and extremely capable ships, including our new class of Aircraft Carrier.

“It is a very exciting time to be starting your careers.”

Lieutenant Vic “Edwina” Currie, one of the graduating pilots said,  “Each of us on this course have spent quite a few years to get to this point and we’re all sharing a sense of relief that we finally got here and got our wings.

“We’re also quite certain that the hard work doesn’t stop here though, and we’re ready to go to our front line Squadrons and carry out the jobs we’ve been trained for.”

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