Royal Navy celebrates 100 years of carrier aviation

The Royal Navy marked hundred years of aircraft carrier operations with a Merlin Mk2 helicopter landing and taking off from the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth on August 2.

On a clear but windy day at Scapa Flow, pilots Lieutenant Greg Weal and Lieutenant Nick Allen flew their 14-tonne helicopter onto the carrier’s four-acre flight deck. The men from 820 Naval Air Squadron then took off for a flypast.

“Ultimately this is the same as any other landing, but it is nice to have in the back of your mind the history of today,” said Lt Allen.

“In those days, not having done it before, landing an aircraft on a ship was dangerous. Now we do it all the time.”

The flight was one of several acts of commemoration to mark Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning’s landing on the flightdeck of HMS Furious at Scapa Flow on August 2, 1917.

Dunning, 25, a member of the Royal Naval Air Service, launched his Sopwith Pup from the carrier, then flew around in a circuit as the ship steamed some 26 knots into the 11 knot wind.

Dunning lined up on finals and ‘blipped’ his engine to slow his approach. The deck crews gathered under his aircraft and successfully hauled him to the deck.

Dunning attempted to repeat the feat five days later but his engine failed and his aircraft toppled into the sea and he drowned.

The young aviator was buried at St Lawrence’s Church in Bradfield, Essex.

HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed from Rosyth in June and is currently carrying out sea trials ahead of her arrival in her homeport of Portsmouth.

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