Author Topic: Fly Navy 100 - Celebrations to mark a century of Naval Aviation  (Read 2417 times)

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A spectacular midday flypast over the UK’s strike carrier, HMS Illustrious, in London, provided the highlight of celebrations to mark 100 years of Naval aviation.

The tight formation of fixed wing and rotary wing Naval aircraft was led by state of the art Merlin helicopters, followed by different variants of Sea King and Lynx helicopters, as well as Hawk and Jetstream aircraft.

His Royal Highness, The Duke of York KG, Commodore in Chief Fleet Air Arm, and a distinguished Naval pilot who saw active service in the Falklands Conflict, was guest of honour onboard as the flypast passed overhead. The Duke spoke warmly of his service in the Fleet Air Arm and the nation’s debt of gratitude to all those who gave their lives in the service of Naval aviation. He also thanked everyone who worked hard to keep the aircraft flying, including the maintainers and engineers and praised the Fleet Air Arm’s commitment and professionalism in the very challenging environment in which they operate.

Flying from ships at sea is the core business of the Fleet Air Arm and the centenary of Naval aviation marks the decision by the Admiralty on 7 May 1909 to order the Navy’s first aircraft, His Majesty’s Air Ship 1. It was to prove a visionary and far reaching decision that transformed Naval warfare.  100 years later, the capability of Naval aviation or – Maritime Air Power – continues to have a direct impact and influence on military strategy and operations today.

Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious, Captain Ben Key, said:

“It is an honour for HMS Illustrious to be the focus of such a historic occasion. Carrier aviation and particularly Carrier Strike is not only the back bone of the Fleet, it is the backbone of our national security and wider defence policy.”

Also speaking at the celebrations was Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope KCB OBE, Commander-in-Chief Fleet who expressed his warmest congratulations to the Fleet Air Arm on the occasion of the centenary saying:

 “The Fleet Air Arm is contributing directly to UK defence commitments worldwide, delivering operational capability on all fronts.  Over 80% of our Squadrons are currently deployed – in Afghanistan, the Arabian Gulf, and Gulf Of Oman, the Far East, the Caribbean and the North and South Atlantic.  The Fleet Air Arm has never been in greater demand proving its utility and versatility in land operations as well as at sea.”

Today was just one highlight of a year of celebrations for the Royal Navy.  On 8 May the celebrations will continue with a service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral to pay tribute to the courage, selfless commitment and dedication of everyone who has served with the Royal Naval Air Service or Fleet Air Arm over the past 100 years. The service will be attended by members of the Royal family, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Honourable John Hutton MP, dignitaries for the City of London, the Commander in Chief Fleet, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope KCB OBE and 2,000 serving and former serving members of the Fleet Air Arm and families.

To commemorate the Nation’s Naval aviation heritage, and the Royal Navy’ s links with Greenwich, there will also be a static display of Naval aircraft, including a combat proven Harrier, in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College and a helicopter flying display over the Thames in Greenwich at 1400 on Sat 9 and Sun 10 May.  This will additionally provide spectators with a rare and exciting opportunity to see Naval aircraft launching from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in London.