The Fleet Air Arm closed a chapter of its history on Thursday, 29 January as the training pipelines for Royal Navy Sea King Mk 4 and Lynx helicopters came to an end when 6 aircrew received their Wings from His Royal Highness The Duke of York, KG.
During the ceremony at the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, 1 newly qualified Lynx pilot, Lieutenant Danielle Welch (30) from Eccleshall, Staffordshire made history as she received her Wings from HRH as the first, and last, ab-initio female pilot to be awarded their Wings at the end of the Lynx course.
In addition to gaining her pilot’s Wings, Lieutenant Danielle Welch (30) received the AgustaWestland trophy awarded for the best all round results on the Lynx operational conversion phase and the Audi TT award for the student displaying the most effort during the course. She said,
“I spent several years travelling around the world with my parents on oil tankers as a child and since then the sea has always appealed to me. Later, at St Dominic’s Priory School Stone during my GCSE physics course, we spent a day at Staffordshire Gliding Club where I experienced my first flight and knew it was something that wanted to pursue. Flying in the Royal Navy gave me the opportunity to combine these two elements in a thoroughly rewarding and challenging way.
What I enjoy most about my job is the huge variation in tasks we are asked to achieve, no two days are the same. Also, as the only pilot on board a ship, there is a huge amount of responsibility to operate the aircraft in the most effective way but ultimately in the safest manner possible.”
During the ceremony that included a Royal Marine Band and a 48 person Guard in honour of the Royal guest, The Duke who paid tribute to the Squadrons that had trained the pilots and observers. HRH The Duke who has flown both Sea King and Lynx helicopters during his time as a Fleet Air Arm pilot. said,
“This is a very very important ceremony in the life of the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm and has bought back memories to me of when I stood where these six young people are, a very long time ago!”
Addressing those present The Duke added;
“I don’t think you really realise how much hard work and time those who receive their Wings have actually put in.
The work the Royal Navy does is vital to the interests of the UK and the work that these young people do make a huge difference to all of us.”
Lt Danielle Welch will remain with the Squadron that trained her, 815 Naval Air Squadronbut now join the front line trained strength that will involve operations in support of the Fleet at locations and on board ships around the world to help protect the Uk’s interests home and abroad.
Lt Welch added
“I was absolutely delighted to receive my Wings from HRH and so pleased to be able to share the culmination of a lot of hard work with my family“