First Landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth
A Merlin helicopter has landed on the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
26-year-old pilot Lieutenant Luke Wraith from Yorkshire set the 14-ton helicopter safely down on the aircraft carrier, just days after she left Rosyth to begin trials in the North Sea.
He had a four-acre flight deck - almost the size of three football pitches - to aim for. "I was pretty nervous - not about making a safe landing, but knowing that every other pilot in the Navy would watch the footage and critique it," said Wraith, of 820 Naval Air Squadron.
"I'm actually quite surprised it ended up being me because I only got my flying wings 18 months ago - I was expecting it to be someone much more senior."
There were five people in the first aircraft to land on the new carrier. Wraith was joined in the cockpit by his squadron's senior pilot Lt Cdr Steve Moseley, observer Lt Chris Bugg and aircrewmen Petty Officers Nigel Stockdale and Jonathan Holding.
"To have a 'first' in your log book is very special, but to have the first landing on the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy is something very special indeed," said Moseley, a graduate of the U.S. Navy's Test Pilot School.
"We were the final link in the chain in a process that has involved thousands of people all working very hard towards this iconic occasion.”
Watching the historic landing from the ship's 'aircraft control tower' - called the Flyco - in the rear of HMS Queen Elizabeth's two islands was Commander Mark Deller, in charge of all flight operations. His team trained around the world - on simulators, on U.S. Navy carriers and on a mock-up flight deck at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.
"There are smiles everywhere on deck and that's a good sign. Operating live helicopters adds another dimension to our understanding of how our flight deck behaves,” said Deller. "We've proven our initial ability to operate aircraft safely. Now our focus is getting the ship and all her systems fully tested and set to work ready to commence full fixed wing flying trials next year."
Also observing was Captain Jerry Kyd, Queen Elizabeth's first Commanding Officer. He said: "It's an exciting and historic event which marks the beginning of the ship's life as the nation's flagship and the future of carrier-based aviation.”