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RAF Support Helicopters Deploy To Support Floods In The North East

The Royal Air Force has deployed its Support Helicopter Force to the North East to provide Military Aid to the Environment Agency in support of the repair and flood relief effort after the storms of Thursday 5 and Friday 6 December caused wide scale flooding and damage to coastal defences.

A Royal Air Force Support Helicopter was deployed to the North East with a 6 man team from RAF Odiham’s Joint Helicopter Support Squadron to support the Environment Agency as they carry out repairs on the East Coast flood defences

On arrival, the crew of the aircraft were briefed by the Environment Agency on the task that faced them. They needed to lift multiple tonnes of sandbags into a 30 metre long breach in a defensive wall before the arrival of the high tide.

Squadron Leader Steven Bell, Assistant Chief of Staff at RAF Odiham took the initial call. He explains: “We received the initial request for support at around 12.30pm, and we were able to react to it immediately. We knew we needed to get the aircraft off the ground by 2pm, so instantly everyone’s focus turned to ensuring that the aircraft was prepared and that all crew and support personnel were briefed and at readiness.”

As the afternoon progressed it was clear that additional reinforcements were required and a Merlin helicopter from RAF Benson, arrived at RAF Odiham to collect a further team from the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron. The Merlin immediately deployed to Boston in Lincolnshire to ensure the necessary specialists were on the ground quickly to support the Environment Agency in their flood defence plans before returning to Oxfordshire, where they remained on standby.

Squadron Leader Chris Royston-Airey, a Merlin Flight Commander and the Duty Flying Supervisor at the time of the incident, explained, “The RAF Support Helicopters have spent many years being prepared to move at short notice and this was no exception. The Merlin returned from combat operations in Afghanistan earlier this year and now holds a permanent commitment to be ready to deploy at very short notice to assist in any potential military operation, from non-combatant evacuations in hostile locations to flood and disaster relief in the UK and beyond.”

A Royal Air Force Support Helicopter was deployed to the North East with a 6 man team from RAF Odiham’s Joint Helicopter Support Squadron to support the Environment Agency as they carry out repairs on the East Coast flood defences

After lowering the defences into place the Chinook remained on site to support any additional requirements that were raised before returning to a local military airfield. They mobilised again from the airfield on the morning of 7 December, and remained on site to provide additional support to the wider relief task and the area throughout the day.

Group Captain Richard Maddison, Station Commander RAF Odiham and head of the Chinook Force said: “This is a fantastic example of the adaptability and capability of the Support Helicopter force and its personnel. The Chinook Force has continuously supported national resilience and military aid operations since it was introduced into the RAF in 1981. It is a truly adaptable aircraft, capable of operating day and night in adverse weather and environment. The aircraft, however, would not be able to reach its true versatility without the support of the thousands of service and civilian personnel stationed at RAF Odiham. Everyone, be it aircrew or engineers, administrators or caterers, pull together to achieve one aim, and that is to enable the Chinook force to be able to provide this level of support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

raf-chinook

Editor: Nikki Hamilton

Photographs: Cpl Wise

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013

Autor: Redakcja Świat

Redakcja Świat