Cornwall’s Air Station plays star role as HMS Queen Elizabeth makes home Port Debut

Cornwall’s Air Station, RNAS Culdrose helped to welcome Britain's future flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth into her home port of Portsmouth for the first time.

As a key player in its future, RNAS Culdrose played a star role both in the official flypast, but also on the flight deck of the new warship.

Thousands of people lining the Portsmouth seafront, overawed by the size of the 65,000-tonne carrier, were also wowed by the double fly past of Fleet Air Arm helicopters and jets, the majority of which were from the Helston based Air Station.

As a salute to the platform that they will fly from for the next 50 years, the current aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, greeted HMS Queen Elizabeth as she moved into her official jetty.

Led by a Sea King aircraft from 849 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), Culdrose Merlin helicopters from 824 and 814 NAS followed and were also joined by Culdrose based Hawks from 736 NAS too. Merlin helicopters from sister Air Station RNAS Yeovilton also took part.

Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon said: "Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth to her home for the very first time.

“She is Britain's statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role. She has made good progress in sea trials and will now embark on the next phase of preparations that will see the return of Britain's carrier strike ability. 

“When she enters service she will help keep Britain safe at a time of increased threats, able to fill multiple roles from providing air power anywhere at any time to fight future campaigns, supporting allies or delivering humanitarian aid."

When the Royal Navy’s two new Aircraft Carriers come into service (HMS Prince of Wales, as well as HMS Queen Elizabeth), this will mark the start of an exciting new era in naval warfare.

Wherever the carriers go, Fleet Air Arm helicopters will go with them.  RNAS Culdrose will have an essential role – without the air station, its aircraft, people and training facilities, these new ships will not be able to operate.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth is really important to RNAS Culdrose and we to her,” explains Commander Jason Phillips OBE, Commander Air or ‘Wings’ as he is known. 

“As the home of Carrier Aviation, it was important that we played our part today, both through the official flypast but also through the Carrier’s official Squadron 820 NAS, whose Merlin helicopters were embarked on her flight deck.”

“Carrier Aviation is essential to the Royal Navy and RNAS Culdrose has a crucial role to play in training aircrew and flight deck crews, and providing aircraft to support operations.

“Flight decks are busy and dangerous places and everyone involved in aviation will have been through training here at Culdrose.”

Most deployments will have a mixed ‘air group’ of fixed and rotary wing aircraft to allow the ship to conduct a broad range of tasks and react to a changing environment. 

The majority of the helicopters in an ‘air group’ will be drawn from Culdrose.  Providing aircraft and aviators is only the tip of the Culdrose carrier ‘iceberg’. 

No aircraft will take off or land without the direct involvement of the air station. 

Key to all flight deck movements will be a team of aircraft handlers who will be trained, as all handlers have been trained for more than half a century, at the (Culdrose based) Royal Navy School of Flight Deck Operations. 

In order to prepare for flight deck movements on a much bigger scale, teams have been serving with US carriers for the past two years, gaining invaluable experience.

Carrier Aviation is essential to the Royal Navy and RNAS Culdrose has a crucial role to play in training aircrew and flight deck crews, and providing aircraft to support operations.

Commander Jason Phillips