Pupils at Long Bennington Primary School received a special guest when a giant helicopter landed in their school grounds.
The ‘Flying Tigers’ of 814 Naval Air Squadron dropped in on the school with a fourteen and half ton Merlin helicopter. This gave the children a chance to look over one of world’s most sophisticated anti-submarine hunter helicopters and quiz its crew and engineers.
Rebecca King, headteacher of Long Bennington Academy, said: “We’d told the children they were to stay in over the lunch break. This led to rumours put forward by the student body that we were going to be holding a sports day or some engineering work was in the offing.”
Pupils rushed to the windows as the Grey Merlin came in to land on the school football field, which had been earlier cleared by the Commando Mobile Air Operations Team (CDO MAOT) from RNAS Yeovilton.
In all over 300 pupils got a chance to look around and ask those all important questions.
“It’s quite challenging trying to explain to an 11-year-old how radar or sonar works,” said Lieutenant Max White from the ‘Flying Tigers’. “It’s even more challenging to explain it to a five or six year old! However,
we do receive quite a few school visits at RNAS Culdrose over the year so we develop techniques to simplify our explanations. Funnily enough it is quite useful for our own understanding to work out how to explain complex systems in simple terms. My radar becomes like a bat that uses sound to see over long distance, through cloud, day or night.”
“Kids know about sound and echoes and can understand that the deeper the cave you shout in to, the longer an echo will take to return back to you. I am consistently surprised by their understanding and how quickly they pick up new concepts.”
Each crew member and the air engineers gave talks about what they do on the squadron and their own specialised role in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.
Life for the Flying Tigers of 814 NAS can be pretty busy. As one of the four operational Merlin Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose, they can be called on upon to do anything from protecting the UK or her interests afloat and abroad, to humanitarian operations anywhere in the World.
Recently the squadron was called upon, at very short notice, to help rescue refugees in the Mediterranean, flying from air bases in Italy and Malta.