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Steve ends 40 years of flying with display over Yeovilton with his first pupil

17 February 2023
Veteran naval aviator Lieutenant Commander Steve McArdell brought the curtain down on a 40-year career with the Senior Service by taking to Somerset skies with his first student.

In 1998, Anthony Rimington was the first person to benefit from Steve’s knowledge, experience and tutelage as a student undergoing Elementary Flying Training.

Then the two men shared the cockpit of a Slingsby Firefly trainer over Lincolnshire. A quarter of a century later, the pair with reunited at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, with Steve clambering into the cockpit of a vintage de HavillandChipmunk and Anthony now a rear admiral (he’s been the Royal Navy’s Director of Strategy and Policy and Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff since November) at the controls of a Stinson Reliant.

The two aircraft, both provided for the occasion by Navy Wings, staged an impressive flying display before touching down, whereupon Rear Admiral Rimington and Lieutenant Commander Jason Flintham, Commanding Officer of 727 Naval Air Squadron, presented Steve with leaving gifts.

Steve joined the Royal Navy as a Weapons Electrical Artificer in 1983 before being selected for officer training and changing branches to become a pilot.

He flew Sea Kings extensively with 819 Naval Air Squadron at Prestwick, the Flying Tigers of 814 Squadron in Culdrose, and with 826 NAS at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.

It has been a joy to fly with young people considering a career in the Fleet Air Arm and to pass on my experience to those just starting theirs.

Veteran naval aviator Lieutenant Commander Steve McArdell

He also helped introduce the successor to the Sea King, the Merlin, into service and rounded out his time in helicopters as a test pilot for aircraft emerging from maintenance. 
Towards the end of his career in the Royal Navy, he became a Qualified Flying Instructor teaching on the Slingsby Firefly at the Joint Elementary Flying Training School, RAF Barkston Heath, Lincolnshire.

Steve left the regular Royal Navy in 2001 to become an airline pilot with British Airways, flying the BAE 146/Avro RJ, Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner.

In 2005 he also joined the Royal Naval Reserve Air Branch – renamed HMS Pegasus last year – to share his flying experience with future generation of naval aviators courtesy of the Grob Tutor trainer with 727 Naval Air Squadron, first at Plymouth and, since 2007, at Yeovilton.

“Joining the Royal Naval Reserves gave me the opportunity to pursue a second career in civilian aviation whilst maintaining my links with the Fleet Air Arm,” Steve said. “It has been a joy to fly with young people considering a career in the Fleet Air Arm and to pass on my experience to those just starting theirs.”

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