Two Royal Navy Air Branch Reservists from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose have started the very last ever “Flying-MOT” of a Sea King Mk 5 before the aircraft is retired from service next year.
The veteran Air Engineers, Chief Petty Officers Bruce Rowarth and Andy Harding who have served most of their naval careers with the venerable Sea King, carry out what is called “Zonal Surveys” on all the 771 Search and Rescue Naval Air Squadron’s aircraft.
Each aircraft is surveyed at 15 month intervals and they spend between 15 and 18 days on each aircraft. The surveys are designed to assess what parts of the aircraft need attention to maintain its airworthiness.
“We come in on weekends to the squadron and once the aircraft are stripped back, we get to work,” said Bruce.
“I’ve been doing this job now for about 14 years and have seen many of the Sea Kings, several times!
“It’s was designed in the 1950’s with little consideration for the maintainers to change components and I have the scars on my hands to prove it, but it will be quite sad when we finish this final survey.”
The Aircraft Surveys carried out on naval aircraft are normally done by members of a squadron, and it’s important that the surveyors get into all the nooks and crannies, looking for cracks, corrosion, chaffed pipelines, rust, dust and ensure all the zones of the aircraft are fit for purpose and function correctly.
During the survey, any defects are documented to form a rectification package for the squadrons Maintenance Unit (MU) to complete.
Bruce and Andy’s contribution to the squadron is immeasurable and as Maritime Reserves their knowledge and know-how on the Search and Rescue Sea Kings is second to none at RNAS Culdrose.
“It’s important that we are independent from the day-to-day business on 771”, said Andy.
“We certainly feel part of the squadron and it’s a good use of the Air Branch Reserve engineers, it works fantastically well.
“If a squadron senior rate was to do this job he could be swayed by all the pressures to get aircraft up and onto the flying programme. What we offer is unique and works well for everyone.”
771 NAS Senior Maintenance Rating (SMR), Warrant Officer 1 Ian Mitchell certainly thinks so. He’s impressed by the way they just get on and complete the surveys.
“They’re always on call and always available whenever we need them. It’s through their hard work that the aircraft are prepared ready to pass their Zonal packages. I think it’s a very special moment for them and us, as we line-up this final “MOT” for one of our Sea Kings.”
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