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Commendation for Yeovilton Officer bringing Sea Vixen in for emergency landing

15 November 2017
Lieutenant Zoe Bowness was the Approach Controller at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton on Saturday 27 May 2017 when a Sea Vixen aircraft conducted a wheels-up landing on the main runway.

As Air Traffic Control was manned with minimum staff of four Lt Bowness was operating alone in the Radar Room.

Today Zoe was awarded a Commendation by the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation, Amphibious Capability and Carriers) and Rear Admiral (RAdm) Fleet Air Arm, RAdm Keith Blount OBE.

Rear Admiral Blount said; “Zoë’s work in this was absolutely paramount as part of a really impressive team effort where I don’t think anyone in their training is prepared specifically for a vintage twin engine jet coming back from its first Air Show of the season to be conducting wheel up landing and yet the responses were as if it had just been run as a drill. 

I just did my job, our priority is to get the Pilot and aircraft home safely, which thankfully was the outcome.

Lieutenant Zoe Bowness RN

“Today is about recognising an individual’s contribution Lt Zoe Bowness, I’m proud of you it’s a great effort well done.”

As the Sea Vixen recovered to Yeovilton after displaying at an Air Show, Lt Bowness provided the pilot with an ATC service and handed the aircraft over to the Local Controller without event. 

As the aircraft positioned in the visual circuit to land, the pilot notified ATC of a hydraulic failure and an inability to lower the undercarriage. 

Learning of the aircraft’s emergency only after it had left her frequency, Lt Bowness swiftly made her way to the Visual Control Room to offer assistance during the busy and demanding period when the Station’s emergency response was being initiated. 

Without direction to do so, and in an atmosphere of increasing tension with the aircraft about to land, Lt Bowness immediately and calmly at 7 months pregnant assumed the role of Ground Controller providing operational coordination of the emergency fire and medical crews as they positioned to respond to the developing incident.

Lt Bowness said; “I feel hugely proud to be awarded this commendation, despite being 7 months pregnant and realising immediately the seriousness of the situation I was calm and all my training kicked in.

“I just did my job, our priority is to get the Pilot and aircraft home safely, which thankfully was the outcome.”

In addition, she managed a range of varied and distracting inputs allowing the Tower Controller to focus solely on the aircraft.  

On completion of the emergency landing and the initial rescue response, Bowness coordinated all ground movements to ensure safe and controlled routing of vehicles and personnel on the airfield. 

She remained in the VCR for several hours supporting the Command in the notification of external agencies and management of follow-on activities.   

Commander Terry Tyack Commander Air at RNAS Yeovilton said; “Despite her relative inexperience, and with limited exposure to fast jet malfunctions of such significance, she displayed both initiative and exceptional team spirit in the best traditions of the Royal Navy Air Traffic Control Branch and should be commended.”

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