Royal Navy helicopter crews have been practising alongside their Army and RAF comrades in the skies over Hampshire today as they make final preparations for tomorrow’s Diamond Jubilee flypast.
Fleet Air Arm Lynx, Merlins and Sea Kings will be in the first of seven distinct formations of aircraft past and present flying over Windsor at 12.26pm to honour the Queen’s 60-year reign.
Diamond for a Diamond Jubilee... a Lynx leads a diamond formation of Fleet Air Arm helicopters with a Junglie Sea King on the left, a Bagger on the right and a Merlin bringing up the rear. Pictures: PO(Phot) Paul Punter, FRPU East
THE Royal Navy today took to the skies of Hampshire as part of final preparations for the flypast over Windsor Castle on Saturday as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Bagger airborne surveillance Sea Kings joined Merlin, Junglie Sea Kings of the Commando Helicopter Force and Lynx Mk8 took their place near the front of a specially-designed formation, spelling out ‘60’ and ‘ER’.
A total of 80 current and historic tri-service aircraft will fly in the formation above the Windsor pageant, many of which have recently returned from operations in Afghanistan and Libya.
There's a Bagger, a Junglie and a Black Cat Lynx... What a fine example of Fleet Air Arm inter-squadron harmony
At 12.26pm precisely tomorrow, the helicopters will lead seven separate formations of aircraft over Windsor beginning a five-minute pass to honour the Queen’s 60-year rule.
A dozen helicopters from the three Services will form the vanguard of the flypast, followed by the Battle of Britain Historic Flight, Tucano trainers forming ‘60’, then Hercules transporters, VC10 tankers, Tornado strike fighters, before Hawk jet trainers – taking off from RNAS Yeovilton – forming ‘E II R’ and the Red Arrows complete the main flypast.
The helicopter contingent for the flypast gathered at RAF Odiham – between Basingstoke and Aldershot – to practise the difficult task of choreographing Fleet Air Arm, Army Air Corps and RAF helicopters in formation.
A Bagger and a Merlin take off while two Junglies await instructions
Lt Graham Cannell, 848 Naval Air Squadron, deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 and now works at RNAS Yeovilton training future pilots.
“It’s a great opportunity to take part in such an historic event,” he said. “I am proud to be representing the Royal Navy in front of the Queen and also this is a way of saying thank-you for all her support to the Armed Forces over the years.
“I have taken part in many different operations around the world – flying troops around Afghanistan, counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf and worked with the British Antarctic Survey in South Georgia so this ceremonial work is very different for me, but very rewarding.”
Two Mk8 Lynx parked up at RAF Odiham
Around 2,500 personnel from all three Services will parade through Windsor town centre before arriving at the castle for a muster and ceremony in front of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke Of Edinburgh.
The event will take place in front of 3,000 Service personnel, their families and veterans before the flypast finale between 12.26 and 12.31pm.
The event will be televised live by BBC1 from 10.30am and will be the first time all three Services have visited the Queen for a dedicated event.
A Merlin, a Bagger and a couple of Junglies on the Odiham tarmac
Lt Cdr Chris Trubshaw, Commanding Officer of 849 NAS, the Baggers’ training squadron based at RNAS Culdrose, said: “It was difficult to get us all together here for the training of the flypast as we all have commitments all over the world.
“It was a fantastic effort from the whole squadron to get us ready to fly to RAF Odiham on Thursday to start the training with our RAF and Army counterparts.
“The formation itself does look complicated and is very different to the usual way that we would fly but we are trained to be able to adapt to any situation and we are confident that this flypast will be an excellent way of rounding off the ceremony on Saturday.”
Lt Serena Davidson, an observer with 849 NAS, added: “It is a very special occasion and we are honoured to be a part of it – this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, none of us will live to see another Queen’s Diamond Jubilee so for us to represent the Royal Navy and its aircraft at Windsor is a very proud moment.”