Junglies go Geordie for rescue training with RNLI

Closing in on the stern of the Spirit of Northumberland is a Merlin Mk4 of 845 Naval Air Squadron as the Junglies teamed up with the RNLI for some rescue training.

The battlefield helicopter left its native Somerset behind and swapped RNAS Yeovilton for Newcastle City Heliport for a few days to work with lifeboat crews from Tynemouth and Cullercoats.

The naval air squadron is charged with providing the search-and-rescue capability of the nation’s two new aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, everything from helping fellow mariners in distress to plucking downed fliers from the drink and – with the aid of a Royal Marines detachment in the back of the cab – rescuing F-35 Lightning strike fighter pilots from behind enemy lines.

The crews of the Tynemouth boat (a 42-tonne, 17m-long Severn-class vessel) and Cullercoats (who save lives in a large Atlantic RIB) also needed to get some winching practice in off the North-east coast.

On the ground, the aircrew invited students of Northumbria University Royal Naval Unit to look around the Mk4 Merlin – the principal battlewagon for ferrying Royal Marines into action with the Commando Helicopter Force.

And the fliers also conducted training with the local police close protection unit, looking at VIP transport using the heliport.

“The RNLI are consummate professionals and do an excellent job,” said A Flight pilot Lieutenant Harry Saunders. “The weather was stunning and the training we managed to achieve helped keep some of our search-and-rescue skills sharp.

“All in all, a successful couple of days that allowed us to practise some key parts of our skill-set and work with some agencies that don't normally see Fleet Air Arm assets.”

Flight pilot Lieutenant Harry Saunders

All in all, a successful couple of days that allowed us to practise some key parts of our skill-set and work with some agencies that don't normally see Fleet Air Arm assets.