The first aircraft touched down on the deck of the UK Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales off the east coast of Scotland on Sept. 23.
The first aircraft to land onboard the second Queen Elizabeth-class carrier was a Navy Merlin Mk2 (AW101) helicopter – callsign Dolphin 14 with tail number ZH856 – which was guided safely to the expansive deck by Leading Aircraft Handler Stephen Ashcroft at 11:15 am.
At the controls of the Merlin Mk2 was pilot Lieutenant Rob Prior, assisted by fellow pilot Lieutenant Tim Willis, Observer (navigator/weapons and sensor specialist) Lieutenant Carl Davis, aircraft commander Lieutenant Commander Steve Ivill, aircrewman Chief Petty Officer Lee Elliott and photographer Leading Hand Alex Ceolin.
The Merlin landed and took off six times as various problems and emergencies were practised by the air and ground crew, while HMS Prince of Wales’ air traffic controllers guided the helicopter fliers in circuits around the aircraft carrier.
Directing the inaugural landing from the second of HMS Prince of Wales two distinctive towers was the naval officer in charge of all flying operations conducted by the ship, Commander Air (aka ‘Wings’) Commander Phil Richardson.
HMS Prince of Wales left Rosyth dockyard in Fife, where she has been pieced together over the past eight years, on Thursday.
After a couple of days conducting final training at anchor in the Forth – including the firefighting and emergency teams practising coping with the unlikely event of an aircraft crashing on deck – HMS Prince of Wales put to sea on Sunday, passing beneath the three bridges spanning the Forth upstream of Edinburgh. The first landing came less than 24 hours after the vessel sailed into open waters for the first time.
She will spend the next couple of months completing her initial period of sea trials ¬– with helicopters her principal ink with mainland UK – before debuting in her home base of Portsmouth, where she will be commissioned before Christmas in the presence of her Lady Sponsor, the Duchess of Cornwall.