Chinook helicopters have landed on board HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time as the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier heads to sea on her next round of trials.
The UK’s future flagship sailed from Portsmouth today for the first time since being officially commissioned into the Royal Navy in December. She will be launching her first helicopter trials at sea.
Two Chinooks from the Aircraft Test and Evaluation facility at MOD Boscombe Down arrived on board this morning as the carrier prepared to sail. The ship will be joined later by two Merlin Mk2 aircraft, with all four aircraft carrying specialist testing equipment.
Captain Jerry Kyd, the Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: “After the excitement of our commissioning ceremony in December, my ship’s company and our industry partners are looking forward to taking the ship to sea to conduct first of class rotary wing flying trials.
“These trials will involve operating different types of helicopter from the ship in all weather conditions and fully testing the myriad of on board systems that are designed to support aviation. This is an important milestone in the ship’s progression towards embarking the F35-B Lightning jets later this year, and ultimately the achievement of carrier strike capability.”
The Chinook crews landing on board include Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force personnel. Commander Matt Grindon is the Royal Navy co-pilot of one of the aircraft. He said: “It is a tremendous honour to have been part of the first deck landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth by Chinook.
“I am really looking forward to the opportunity to take part in the forthcoming trials. I have landed on previous carriers, but this flight deck is so much bigger – it certainly made for an easy landing on a very impressive ship.”
The aim of the trials is to work out the conditions that the aircraft can operate in while at sea on the carrier. They will collect data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions, before processing the information and ultimately declaring that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.
These helicopter trials take place before the fixed wing F35 Lightning II trials later this year. Ultimately the carrier will be declared safe to fly Chinook, Merlin Mk2, Merlin Mk3, Merlin Mk4, Wildcat and Apache attack helicopters, as well as the fast jets.
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s 700-strong crew will be further bolstered during the trials by more than 70 people from the ship’s permanently assigned Naval Air Squadron, 820 NAS from RNAS Culdrose, with two further operational Merlin helicopters providing force protection.
Helicopters have previously landed on HMS Queen Elizabeth to transfer essential stores and personnel, but not for official flying trials.