RAF Chinook takes part in exercise

Published: 11 October 2022

The distinctive, tandem rotor helicopter flew from RAF Odiham in Hampshire to conduct valuable resilience training alongside the Isle of Wight Council's emergency management team and local blue light services.

The pre-planned exercise, at Jersey Camp, saw the huge aircraft demonstrate its heavy-lift capabilities by "under slinging" a high-volume pump (HVP) used by the fire service in major flood situations.

The aircraft, from 27 Squadron, completed a number of approaches and load pickups to make sure the Island's responding agencies were familiar with the operating procedures of Chinook helicopters, including helicopter landing site operations.

This is important should the helicopters ever be tasked to assist civilian authorities on the Island in the event of a major incident.

The rare sight marked the culmination of a two-day training exercise involving RAF and Army personnel from the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

Wing Commander Shaun Ryles, RAF regional liaison officer, said: "The value of such a visit should not be underestimated.

"As well as forging strong links between RAF Odiham and the council’s emergency management team, the work carried out will complement existing contingency plans and allow for a swift and effective response from the RAF and other agencies, should a major incident occur.”

A similar heavy-lift exercise took place on the Island in 2016 when an RAF Chinook landed at Sandown Airport. 

More recently the RAF landed a Chinook at Seaclose Park, Newport, to practice longstanding helicopter landing site procedures to support the Isle of Wight NHS Trust during the COVID-19 emergency. 

The latest training exercise involved members of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service, the Coastguard and Isle of Wight Council emergency liaison staff.

Councillor Karen Lucioni, Cabinet member for public protection, who observed the exercise, said: "Work of this nature will enhance arrangements that are already in place should a major incident occur on the Island.

“We would never want to see a major incident take place here, however residents can be assured resilience plans are in place should they ever be needed.”

Councillor Ian Dore, the council's Armed Forces Champion, who also attended, added: "Having flown in and worked under these beasts, I had a massive grin on my face for two reasons.

"One, such exercises are essential to keep skills and drills the best they can be, and this was no exception. Observing today I witnessed a solid example of all agencies, working cohesively and seamlessly; coming together to achieve the goal.

"Secondly, the grins on the faces of those involved. Exercises although serious should also be fun and there is nothing more smile raising that doing a circuit in the back of a Chinook!

"For those participants from the ambulance, fire, Coastguard and other services that are watching our backs on a regular basis, 24/7, although this was a practice session of something they may have to do, it was also something of a rare treat and I truly hope they enjoyed it.”