RN Aircraft Controllers celebrate 30 year anniversary

Warrant Officers (WO) and Senior Rates (SR) from the Aircraft Controller (AC) specialisation recently enjoyed a celebration dinner to mark the branch’s 30th birthday.

Formed in 1988, the Aircraft Controller specialisation combined the Tactical Helicopter Control qualification (Leading Seaman (Radar) Ratings) with the Air Traffic Control qualification (Senior Rate Aircraft Handlers).

This had the aim of increasing the numbers of properly qualified ratings for Helicopter Control and Air Traffic Control duties and to develop and enhance the standards of aircraft control and airspace management within the Fleet.

The birthday dinner, held in historic surroundings on board HMS Victory, was organised by HMS Collingwood’s Base Warrant Officer (BWO) WO1 Mick Turnbull, himself a former Air Traffic Controller with experience serving both in Iraq and, on his return to the UK, in RN ATC units as Unit Training Officer and ATC Standards Chief.

Speaking after the dinner he said, “It was a great chance to get everyone together to recognise a significant event in the specialisation’s history and the night was well attended by available WO&SR ACs. 

“It was a fantastic evening, and everyone enjoyed the opportunity for good food and company on board the First Sea Lord’s Flagship.”

Past, present and future Warrant Officers and Senior Rates toasted the specialisation’s anniversary in the company of guest of honour WO1 Nick Sharland RN and also took the opportunity to mark the 78th anniversary of the Battle of Taranto - the first carrier-launched air strike against an enemy fleet.

On the night of 11/12 November 1940, twenty-one Swordfish torpedo bombers from the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm took off from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to attack Italy’s battle fleet, anchored in Taranto Harbour.

The raid was hailed a success (despite two Swordfish being shot down, the loss of two lives and two other aircrew being captured) and changed the face of naval warfare for ever.

It was a great chance to get everyone together to recognise a significant event in the specialisation’s history.

WO1 Mick Turnbull