Five Royal Navy pilots have finished training and been awarded their “Wings” on active operation – the first time this has happened since the Falklands War.
The five helicopter pilots, normally based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, were due to round off their intense training course on Royal Fleet Auxiliary aviation support ship RFA Argus this month.
However, at the last minute, the ship was redeployed to Sierra Leone by the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Ministry of Defence to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
With only a few weeks of training left a decision was taken to send the five pilots with the ship and now that all are qualified they are expected to begin operational duties within days.
Captain David Eagles, Commanding Officer of RFA Argus, described it as a “unique situation”, one that had not been witnessed in over 30 years.
As a result a formal “Wings” parade was held on the ship’s flight deck attended by RFA, Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel with embarked members of the Royal Marines Band Service adding to the occasion.
RFA Argus sailed from Falmouth on October 17 to provide logistical support in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.
On-board are three Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron that have begun working around the clock to provide rapid transportation for British medical teams and engineers as well as moving equipment and stores.
The five new pilots will now begin flying operations in support of this mission.
Press release, Image: UK Navy