It’s a magical millennial maritime moment for Britain’s biggest warship as HMS Prince of Wales hits her first 1,000 deck landings.
Leading Aircraft Handler Tom Lenszner safely guided Chinook ZD 984 of the RAF’s 27 Squadron down on to the sprawling deck of the Portsmouth-based carrier during the ship’s first spell at sea in 2022.
Having raised the NATO flag earlier this month ready to act as the alliance’s command ship throughout the year, the ship’s company are working with Fleet Air Arm and RAF aviators to prepare for operations later on.
Crewed by Flight Lieutenant John Parry, Flight Lieutenant Andrew Broadhead, Sergeant McClymont and Master Aircrew Jones, the 1000th deck landing comes under two and a half years after the first touchdown (a Merlin Mk2 on September 23 2019).
“It’s a massive privilege to share this milestone with the ship,” said Flt Lt Parry of 27 Squadron “as a Welshman, to deploy on to the Prince of Wales, the largest warship the Royal Navy has ever operated has been amazing, and to top it off with the 1000th deck landing is something I’ll enjoy back in the crew room with my fellow aviators.”
The landing was part of broader training by the helicopter squadron from RAF Odiham in Hampshire. Three Chinooks are embarked on the carrier as their aircrew earn deck qualifications deeming them safe to operate from Prince of Wales by day and night.
The carrier’s air department are using the short embarkation to hone their handling/marshalling skills, including moving a 99ft-long 11-tonne ‘wokka wokka’ from the flight deck to the hangar deck, courtesy of one of the huge aircraft lifts (large enough to accommodate two F-35 stealth fighters… or one Chinook).
As well as the RAF, the ship has been joined by Wildcats of the Fleet Air Arm’s 825 Naval Air Squadron, also getting their sea legs in home waters.
The Yeovilton-based squadron feeds its sister front-line unit, 815, with trained air and ground crew to provide helicopter flights for destroyers and frigates operating around the globe.
Crews have been practicing general duties operating from the carrier’s deck, as well as winching and load lifting.
Once her work-up for NATO command ship duties are complete, Prince of Wales is due back in Portsmouth next month when she’ll prepare for her debut in the High North.
She will embark Commander Strike Forces, Rear Admiral Mike Utley and his team while they undertake the Norwegian-led exercise Cold Response with NATO partners and Allies.
It’s a massive pri