Hello Helo – Devonport opens helipad after ten-year gap

A Dauphin has landed in Devonport Naval Base – as helicopter operations return after a ten-year gap.

The old helipad at Weston Mill made way for the revamp of the area to make way for RM Tamar and the centre of amphibious excellence.

Since then regular helicopter flights have been diverted to a small facility across the Tamar at HMS Raleigh.

The pad is principally used by personnel from Fleet Operational Sea Training, flown to and from ships undergoing training and assessment off the coast of Plymouth – which has meant a journey of about an hour from Devonport to Torpoint, rather than five to ten minutes to FOST headquarters in HMS Drake.

The result at Bull Point – beyond the mock village used for disaster relief training – is a new multi-million pound, Helicopter Operating Facility.

The facility features a meteorological observation station and provision to refuel visiting helicopters. As well as Dauphins of the Fleet Helicopter Support Unit, based at Newquay, the new pad can host Merlin and Wildcat Helicopters.

The purpose is to transfer FOST personnel from shore to sea to carry out operational training of ships. This will now be a ten-minute drive in the base and then straight out to sea, making for a much more efficient process.

Lieutenant Commander Simon Smith

“The purpose is to transfer FOST personnel from shore to sea to carry out operational training of ships,” explained Lieutenant Commander Simon Smith, air traffic officer.

“For the past ten years that has been happening from HMS Raleigh, which is a good hour’s transit away.

“This will now be a ten-minute drive in the base and then straight out to sea, making for a much more efficient process.”

The site chosen proved a challenge – chiefly to prevent oil and waste water entering the Tamar and its conservation area; ‘interceptors’ have been installed to capture any effluent.