Black Cats ready for Diamond Jubilee display season

Black Cats ready for Diamond Jubilee display season 17 May, 12, Source: Royal Navy

Validation’s what you need… if you want to be the best Naval helicopter display team in the land.

The head of the Fleet Arm Arm watches the Black Cats put on their final practice display before he gives the seal of approval to their 2012 season.

Rear Admiral Tom Cunningham, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation & Carriers), visited the Black Cats’ home at RNAS Yeovilton to watch the two Lynx helicopters pirouette, dance and perform other aerobatic moves in sunny but windy Somerset skies.

The duo, drawn from 702 Naval Air Squadron which trains Lynx air and ground crew for front-line duties with the Navy, have been a popular sight for the past decade or so at airshows around the UK.

Originally known as ‘The Lynx Pair’, they were renamed the Black Cats thanks to the fierce wildcat depicted on the squadron’s badge and also the naval slang of ‘black catting’ – implying one-upmanship, having done or owned something better than anyone else.

The team is formed entirely of volunteers with Lt David Fleming lead pilot this year and Lt Ian Brannighan at the controls of ‘Black 2’.

Between them they synchronise the helicopters’ movements to give the effect of what has been described as an ‘aerial ballet’, speeding up and slowing down, as conducting thrilling close passes and exciting dynamic helicopter formation flying.

They’re backed up by a team of engineers who roll up to shows around the country with their-now familiar trailer, selling merchandise and, more importantly, selling the story of the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm.

“I hope that this year’s display looks as good from the ground as it does from the aircraft. It is full of dynamic manoeuvres, close formation and dramatic fast-passes – it is a challenging display for us to fly, but it will definitely be one to be seen from the crowd at this year’s air shows,” said Lt Fleming.

With the admiral’s tick in the box secured, the Black Cats are validated to perform – something they’ll do for the first time for the public in 2012 over the weekend of May 26-27 at Southend Air Festival, an event which can attract up to three quarters of a million visitors if the weather gods are kind.

The full display season for the Black Cats is:

May 26-27 Southend Air Festival
June 8 Dawlish Air Show
June 18 Cosford Air Show
June 23 RNAS Yeovilton Air Day
June 30/July 1 RAF Waddington International Air Show
July 21-22 Sunderland International Air Show
August 1 Weymouth Bay Festival
August 25-26 Chris Evans’ C4RF35T
August 29–30 Dartmouth Royal Regatta
August 30-Sept 2 Bournemouth Air Festival
Sept 8-9 Southport Air Show
Sept 12–14 Guernsey and Jersey Air Shows
Oct 14 Duxford Autumn Air Show

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