Aircrew and engineers from 01 Flight of 829 Naval Air Squadron arrive back at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose after a six-month deployment East of the Suez Canal and the seas around the Horn of Africa.
Embarked in HMS St Albans, a Type 23 Frigate, the Merlin helicopter of 01 Flight was a crucial asset to the success of the deployment as the ship transited the Gibraltar Straits, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab-el-Mendeb Straits. Working in harsh conditions with temperatures rising as high as 50°C, the ship took part in international and NATO operations conducting Anti-Piracy and Anti-Terrorism patrols where the aircraft’s radar and other sophisticated sensors proved invaluable in detecting and tracking suspect vessels.
During this busy deployment the Merlin’s crew responded to a Mayday call from a stricken Indian tanker, and the 13 crew members had to be winched from the tanker’s deck to safety. This dangerous evolution was conducted successfully by the Flight and as a result Petty Officer Aircrewman Mike “H” Henson, who was lowered to the tanker to collect each of the 13 sailors, has been nominated for a “Millie” award by the Sun newspaper.
It has been a long but very successful deployment for the members of 829’s 01 Flight and their families were delighted to welcome them home. The Flight Commander, Lieutenant Commander Hamish Mckee, said: “The support received from family and friends back home played a vital role in our success whilst away”.
The crew will now have some leave over the Christmas period then resume training and preparations for their next deployment in 2012.