BCal Helicopters and HMS Ark Royal
NATO / Joint Maritime Course
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Landing a helicopter on land is not the easiest task, landing on an oil rig is even harder but landing on a moving aircraft carrier must be an order of difficulty up from that. It is something that the military pilots train hard to learn how to do and a feat of airmanship that most civilian pilots will never have the chance to do.
But in 1987 British Caledonian Helicopters won a Royal Navy contract to take on the civilian support role to the NATO Joint Maritime Course, and four BCal Helicopters and their crews were involved.
Each undertook various duties, including a number of landings and take-offs from the deck of HMS Ark Royal, under the direction of Royal Navy crew whilst on the move, with Ark Royal flanked by ships from the other navies taking part.
BCalH Bell 214ST G-BKFP prepares to land on HMS Ark Royal's deck. (MoD Photo)
BCalH S61N G-BIHH take-off from HMS Ark Royal's deck. (MoD Photo)
HMS Ark Royal
From BCal News July 1987
BCal Helicopterís crew, well used to landing on wind-lashed oil rigs out in the North Sea, recently had the experience of touching down on a moving platform - the flight deck of HMS Ark Royal.
Thanks to a strong Royal Navy connection, BCal Helicopters a contract for civilian helicopter involvement in the Joint Maritime Course, a roving exercise in the Northern Approaches in which ships representing several NATO navies took part.
A BCalH Bell 214ST (G-BKFP) operated with the fleet, winching personnel, transferring stores, mail and other sundries important to the operation of ships at sea.
And while Ark Royal, a ship which bears one of the most famous names in British naval history, exercised of Cape Wrath, three BCalH S61N helicopters (G-BFPF, BIMU and BIHH) carried out a Harrier squadron changeover from bases in Northern Scotland.
Some 120 military personnel and 7,000lbs of stores were moved during a glorious mid-summers evening, at a location so far North that map reading by daylight was still possible at midnight.
Much preliminary groundwork and liaison with the Royal Navy resulted in BCal Helicopters performing a successful and highly interesting series of flights.
.......and we have a very nice photo below too
....and here is the photo, a colour image of the four BCal Helicopters on board HMS Ark Royal in June 1987
British Caledonian - A Tribute Collection
Were you one of the crew for BCalH? It would be good to hear your recollections
My thanks to Trevor Boud for sending in the BCal News newspaper