Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy
Two Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron (Picture: MOD).
Aircraft

Royal Navy engineers save £12m on Merlin helicopter fix

The team at RNAS Culdrose questioned the need to replace the entire section of nose landing gear after 3,500 hours in the air.

Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy
Two Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron (Picture: MOD).

Engineers responsible for maintaining Royal Navy helicopters have saved £12m with a 'simple fix' for the Merlin fleet.

Written more than 20 years ago, the original maintenance guidance for the helicopters says their nose landing gear should be replaced after 3,500 hours in the sky.

However, the team at RNAS Culdrose questioned the need to replace the entire section and, with each front set costing £230,000 in parts alone, the engineers reckoned only one single pinion actually needed swapping.

Now, by replacing just one part on the Merlin helicopter, engineers will save more than £12.5m in parts alone across 55 aircraft in the Mk2/Mk4 fleets.

 

Watch: Guided tour inside a Royal Marines Merlin helicopter.

The Merlin helicopter has two variants. One is a mainstay of submarine hunting and early warning operations, operating from all major Navy ships – including Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

The other is crucial to supporting Royal Marines in the field – transporting personnel, equipment and casualties on the battlefield.

Chief Petty Officer Jamie Medlen of the station's Air Engineering Department praised contractors Chris Lewis-Brown and Jim Bartholomew, who insisted the old undercarriage parts were still perfectly fit for use.

"They knew there was something wrong and that removing the nose landing gear was a mistake," CPO Medlen said.

"It turns out there is just a single part in the nose landing gear, a pinion in the steering system, which needs to be replaced after 3,500 flying hours. That pinion is routinely replaced anyway."

CPO Medlen has led the process within the Royal Navy and is working with industry to have the Merlins' maintenance procedures rewritten.