The training itself is provided by 727 NAS and Babcock, who aim to provide 6-10 hours (all weather dependant) of flying time, following a syllabus that includes the basics of handling, climbing and descending, turning, stalling, spinning and of course the aerobatics.
Over the two weeks our time was spent at the squadron attending the pre-flight mass brief on what we were to be learning during our sortie that day, before taking the planes up into the air. When we weren’t able to fly due to the weather, visits were arranged for us to see the various helicopter squadrons- we had tours round the Sea King, Merlin, Lynx and even the new Wildcat helicopters, also getting a shot in the Lynx and Wildcat simulators. Life-like scenarios were set up so we had to try and land the Lynx on the back of a moving Type-45 Destroyer in the fjords of Norway, or fly the Wildcat around the Yeovilton airfield. We also saw the ‘dunker’ underwater escape training unit and had a tour around aircraft at the historic flight museum.
During the second week there were lessons on navigation and planning our own sortie. This involved calculating fuel consumption and time taken for each leg of the flight, as well as making sure each waypoint would be visible to the pilot from 2000ft up. We also had to factor in wind speed and direction, similar to calculating tides and course to steer on a P2000.
In my final hour’s fight on the course, we practised circuits around the airfield, taking-off and landing the Grob and after enough practise and watching my flight instructor I was able to do this unassisted. My personal highlight however was definitely the aerobatics we conducted at the end of each sortie, along with the lesson on stall and spin recovery- unless you had a strong stomach you were sure to be feeling green after loops, barrel rolls and wingovers.
My time at RNAS Yeovilton this summer was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life, and as student reading Mechanical Engineering it left me seriously contemplating a life in the Fleet Air Arm, either as an pilot or and air engineer. Strong friendships were made with the other URNU students (I’m sure there is a reunion planned at sports weekend in February) and I gained a tremendous insight to life inside the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm. If you are able to I would definitely recommend applying for the place on the next Special Award Flying Course at Easter.