333 Days in the Sky & Still Going Strong

A Warrant Officer Aircrewman from CHF has notched up a staggering aviation achievement that will be difficult to replicate. WO1 John Sheldon of 848 NAS has logged an amazing 8,000 Flying Hours, the equivalent of an unbelievable 333 days airborne and he doesn’t intend to hang up his flying boots just yet.

John joined the Royal Navy as an `Engineering Mechanic Air’ in 1968, working on a variety of aircraft at sea and ashore. An interest in flying saw him selected for Aircrew Training at the Aircrewman School then at RNAS Portland in 1972 and the start of his flying career in Wessex helicopters with 771 NAS. Since then he has flown every type of service helicopter in the UK forces and few more as well! Not content with flying RN helicopters he also had a spell with the RAF serving as a Chinook Loadmaster until rejoining the RN Reserve Air Branch.

Some of the highlights of his remarkable flying career have been with the Jungly squadrons. In particular during the Falklands War in 1982, he served with 846 NAS embarked on HMS Hermes and HMS Fearless, sailing south at very short notice. The crews had to learn how to use the new NVGs as they sailed.

“We had nothing to work on; none of the cockpits were configured for night flying with the goggles. Everything was developed on the journey south; we went on to fly with them on all the Operations over the Falklands” John recalls. “Another time we were flying near Mount Kent, dropping off ammunition for the Army. I heard over the radio that four Argentinean jets were in the area. I looked back and saw them coming down in two pairs. They passed over us but we’d started our evasion procedures. As we broke they fired on us, by this stage we’d got to FOB Teal and landed on. The pilot and I got out of the aircraft with its GPMG and started to make a brew, as you do! It was then the pilot noticed a 30 mm cannon had knocked a hole through the main spar of a blade, we were lucky it didn’t break clean in two before we landed.”

Having started on the Wessex John now flies the Sea King Mk4, logging nearly 4,000 Sea King hours over his time. As well as helicopters he’s also flown many smaller aircraft that have passed through the MoD’s Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre at Boscombe Down, where he worked as both a RN and RAF Warrant Officer.

Capt Matt Briers RN, CO CHF presented John with a memento of his achievement and added. “The life of a Junglie aircrewman is tremendously demanding. WO Sheldon is an outstanding individual and aircrewman who has flown a large variety of helicopters in terrain ranging from the arctic to the tropical jungle. During this time he has amassed over 8,000 hrs of flying, an achievement that is nothing short of remarkable. 848 NAS are now the lucky beneficiaries of his vast experience which he is imparting to the new breed of pilots and aircrewmen that are learning their trade around the skies of Somerset.”

See separate article in this issue on 848’s activities.

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