Royal Navy fast patrol boat HMS Example recently took members from Northumbrian University Royal Naval Unit (NURNU) and representatives of the Reserve Forces & Cadets Association (RFCA) to sea.
HMS Example sailed from HMS Calliope, the Newcastle RNR base, and down the River Tyne to the North Sea. After an hour of flat, calm river transit, Example started to feel the low, long swell of the North Sea as she approached the breakwaters near Tynemouth.
Past the breakwater and well acquainted with a cheeky easterly swell, the ship eagerly awaited one of the newest aircraft of the Royal Navy – a Wildcat from 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) based at RNAS Yeovilton.
The Wildcat approached the ship from the west, flying low over Herd Groyne, the famous red wooden lighthouse marking the entrance to the River Tyne.
Example was at flying stations with the wind blowing on the starboard beam, allowing the aircraft to approach from the ship’s port side.
The crew and guests observed an exhilarating spectacle as the Wildcat approached to within a few meters of the ship and hovered seemingly at the eye level of the Commanding Officer on the exposed bridge.
In challenging environmental conditions, the Wildcat was successful in safely landing a member of their aircrew onto a piece of flat deck on board HMS Example’s quarterdeck, no larger than a small toilet cubicle.
It made for tense viewing with high precision needed from both the ship and aircraft to ensure a safe and elegant transfer. All involved were thoroughly impressed with the capability of the newly acquired Wildcat helicopters.
A few fortunate members of the NURNU and the Royal Naval Reserve at HMS Calliope were given a first-hand experience of flying in a Wildcat the following day, with 815 NAS giving short flights over the North East, which offered rarely-seen views of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.