Royal Navy helicopter pilot flies home to Scarborough on National Armed Forces Day

A Royal Navy helicopter pilot will fly over his hometown as Scarborough hosts the National Armed Forces Day event.

By Louise Perrin
Friday, 24th June 2022, 2:59 pm
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 3:01 pm
LT Phill Fordham
LT Phill Fordham

Lieutenant Phill Fordham’s sub-hunting Merlin will be in the first of many flypasts over Scarborough as the town hosts the National celebrations.

Normally Phill and his state-of-the-art helicopter can be found either 400 miles away at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, near Helston, Cornwall… or operating with a Royal Navy Frigate in the grey wastes of the Atlantic.

His helicopter is equipped with sonobuoys – dropped into the sea to listen for the tell-tale sound of a submarine – and sonar, lowered or ‘dipped’ into the ocean while the Merlin hovers, sending ‘pings’ through the depths to pinpoint the location of a submarine.

Merlin helicopter

In time of war, depth charges or torpedoes can be used to eliminate the threat.

Most recently, however, Phill – who was raised in Flamborough and went to school in Scarborough – has focused on flying in formation with fellow aviators.

He heads to his hometown having just taken part in Jubilee celebrations, flying alongside comrades from the Fleet Air Arm – the Navy’s dedicated air force – over Buckingham Palace.

“It is a varied and rewarding job, I often have to remind myself that this is work and not just a little-boy’s dream!” Phill said.

The Merlin helicopter may be seen at Armed Forces Day this weekend

“On a personal level, taking part in National Armed Forces Day is a huge honour for me, I get to fly over my hometown and the school where my involvement in the Cadets kicked off my military career.

Being based in the opposite corner of the country, flying over these places is a rare opportunity.

“For the wider military it is an excellent opportunity for us to expose the public to a little bit of what we do, show our thanks for their support and to pay respects to our veterans and those no longer with us.”

Phill leads up a team of aircrew and engineers from 814 Naval Air Squadron, nicknamed the Flying Tigers.

LT Phill Fordham will fly his merlin helicopter over his home town of Scarborough

“I’ve been a pilot on the squadron now for nearly four years,” he explains. “Since qualifying in 2018 I have deployed to the Western Atlantic on the inaugural Carrier Strike Group with HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“This included stop-offs in Halifax Nova Scotia, Miami and Boston. I have also operated in the Arctic Ocean, conducting freedom of navigation exercises and anti-submarine patrols.

“It can be hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Qualifying to land a big helicopter on the back of a small ship at sea has been a career highlight.”

The flypast is due to take place at 11:25 on Saturday June 25.