The Olympic Flame was flown early morning today by a Royal Navy Search and Rescue Squadron helicopter from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, where the Flame had remained overnight, to Lands End for the start of the Olympic Torch Relay.
The 771 Naval Air Squadron Sea King Helicopter arrived at Lands end at 7.00 am where Lieutenant Commander Richard Full carried the lantern to the world-famous signpost at Land’s End, where the first Torch was lit supported by a crowd of local residents and dignitaries.
The very proud crew who flew the flame were:
• Lieutenant Commander Martin Shepherd, (Pilot and Commanding Officer of 771 Naval Air Squadron)
• Lieutenant Chris Whittington (Pilot)
• Lieutenant Commander Richard Full (Observer)
• Corporal Justin Morgan (Aircrewman)
Lieutenant Commander Richard Full was chosen as the Sailor who carried the lantern to the start of the Torch Relay from the aircraft. Richard said: “As an avid sportsman and a firm believer in the ethos of the Olympic Games, I was extremely proud and honoured to be invited to carry the Olympic Flame on its short journey from one of our Search and Rescue aircraft to the starting point for London 2012. This is most definitely a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity as I doubt whether I, or many of my fellow West Country men and women will see the Olympic Flame pass through their towns and villages again during their lifetimes.”
As the Olympic Flame is classified as a symbolic flame it is permitted to be carried on board an aircraft subject to special authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority. The Flame travelled in a ceremonial lantern secured in a specially designed cradle which was firmly fixed to its seat on the plane using a secure holding device. The lantern is designed so the Olympic Flame can burn safely for up to 30 hours.
Three-times Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie CBE had the honour of being the very first Torchbearer for the Relay. Ben, who grew up in Cornwall, is one of 8,000 Torchbearers who will carry the Olympic Flame during the Relay.
On leaving Land’s End, the Olympic Flame will travel an estimated 8,000 miles around the UK giving thousands of communities and individuals their moment to shine as the Olympic Flame comes to a place near them.
Photos: MoD crown copyright.