Helicopter on RFA Argus 130919 CREDIT Royal Navy.jpg
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Earning Their Wings: Pilots In The Last Phase Of Flying Training

How pilots and aircrew of 846 Naval Air Squadron's Operational Conversion Flight complete their training.

Helicopter on RFA Argus 130919 CREDIT Royal Navy.jpg

In the last phase of flying training pilots and aircrew of 846 Naval Air Squadron's Operational Conversion Flight tested their skills with a Merlin helicopter.

The training involved mastering the art of manoeuvring and landing a Merlin on RFA Argus.

Landing a fighting force on enemy shores and establishing a beachhead can be a crucial tactic in battle.

When it comes to bringing troops in by air, pilots in the Commando Helicopter Force need a special set of skills which goes beyond take-off and landing.

Merlin helicopter in the shade 130919 CREDIT Royal Navy.jpg

"We are being trained at sea - that involves deck landing both by day and by night," explained Lieutenant Harry Saunders.

Among the vital skills that are part of this final phase of training, the trainees need to learn how to refuel during flights and coping with lifting off with an underslung load.

"With an underslung load there are a lot more hazards," said Leading Aircraft Engineering Technician Harrop.

Merlin helicopter prepares to land on RFA Argus 130919 CREDIT Royal Navy.jpg

The at-sea training lasts two weeks and it is incredibly different from training on land.

Lt Saunders said the moving platform "presents a number of challenges" if compared to regular landings.

However, it is good practice for recovery operations they will have to face in their service life.

Following the training at-sea, they will need to complete one more test.

It takes four years for these pilots to earn their wings before they are ready for the sharp end of operations on the frontlines of tomorrow.