A Royal Navy sailor from Shropshire will now serve with the Commando Helicopter Force having completed the tough training to become an aircraft handler.
Mathew Vickers, aged 28 and from Whitchurch, has qualified to become a naval airman – an old-fashioned term which nowadays includes men and women – after intensive training at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose at Helston, Cornwall.
Aircraft handlers have a dangerous job working on exposed flight decks in all weathers to manoeuvre aircraft. They also train in rescue and firefighting in case of emergencies.
Naval Airman Vickers, a former pupil of Sir John Talbot’s School and Shrewsbury College Group, said: “I joined the navy for the lifestyle it offers and for the qualifications. The best part of the training for me was the live firefighting as I love the physical aspect of the job role.”
A special ceremony was held at the air station on Friday, June 26, where the successful students passed into the ranks of the Aircraft Handlers’ Branch to begin their careers on front-line service.
Lieutenant Commander Billy Benton, the commanding officer of the Royal Naval School of Flight Deck Operations, said: “I’d like to congratulate all the men and women of this qualifying course who have shown the determination and qualities to become a naval airman aircraft handler.
“Many will go on to serve on the flight decks of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth or HMS Prince of Wales. Each also passes into the prestigious Aircraft Handlers’ Branch.
“Although we have been unable to invite the students’ families and friends to witness the parade due to the coronavirus lockdown, I am confident that their nearest and dearest will share my feelings of pride at their success and join me in wishing them the very best in their future careers. Well done all.”
Naval Airman Vickers will now join 845 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton, which flies Merlin helicopters used by the Royal Marines.