Embarked Operations (Safety)

If you joined either the Army or the RAF, then the chances are that you prefer spending your time either in the air or with your feet firmly on dry land.

But whether we like it or not, most of us will be gaining our sea-legs at one point or another! Operating at sea brings a unique set of challenges that can be hard to prepare for prior to embarking. This article will highlight some of the dangers of operating at sea and a few quick tips to help you get in the correct mindset for working with the Navy; unfortunately this doesn’t involve rum…

Here are a couple of extracts from recent DASOR’s:
One: The assault guide approached me and asked a question but due to noise I couldn’t hear him so I gestured to him to show me what he has seen. We walked around the boarding marines at which point he looked at the floor so I stopped to see what he was looking at to see if there was FOD or find out was what he had asked me about. When I looked up the assault guide had carried on walking and was now only a foot or so away from the spinning tail rotor. I ran after him as quickly as I could, as I was aware of the danger, and man handled him back toward safety. His head got to within two feet of the tail rotor and, due to the height of the assault guide he would have definitely come into contact with it had he continued walking the route he was on.

Two: On completion of first series of load lifts, Commando 1 landed on 1 Spot to pick up 8 pax to transfer back to HMS Illustrious. On landing pax were loaded on and aircraft launched and departed without incident. It was only after the fact that the HMS Bulwark Officer Of the Watch (OOW) enquired why the move was conducted under green deck operations without permission. Neither FLYCO, the FLYCO logger, or the Principal Warfare Officer (observing on camera) noticed this. The Flight Deck Marshaller had been informed by the pilot that lashings were not required, but failed to confirm with FLYCO whether green deck operations were in force or not. The HMS Bulwark team were fully debriefed on the incident and the potential consequences of operating under green deck ops without the OOW being aware or giving permission. The benign conditions and the quick transition between one aspect of a sortie and another lead all parties into a false sense of security leading to the incident.

Here are some top tips, for those who haven’t quite got their sea legs yet:
Walk Early:
Everything takes that little bit longer when embarked, even longer when it is dark, wet, and swaying from side to side with adjacent aircraft!

Never Step Backwards on a Flight Deck:
This is a habit you can break as soon as you know you are going on ship. Often we will step backwards as part of a walkaround, but do this on ship and you are likely to fall backwards over some lashings!

Use a White Light Torch on Your AC Walkaround at Night:
A blue finger torch will not give you sufficient light to conduct your walkaround. There is not as much ambient light at sea as there is on land.

Let Your Eyes Adjust:
As cockpits are becoming more digitised, all aircrew will potentially spend a large amount of time looking at monitors. After a long sortie, stepping out of the aircraft onto a dark flight-deck could potentially become very disorientating. As you step out of the aircraft, pause, take a moment, and ensure you have got your bearings!

Unlike operating from an airfield, aviation is not the sole purpose of a ship! Whilst every effort will be taken to enable your training, the ship will have its own training and its own routine to complete on a day-to-day basis. Try to bear this in mind!

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