On June 22nd 1970 the hangar doors at Westland’s Yeovil opened for the first time for Damien XV666. This was the start of a long and illustrious flying career with the Fleet Air Arm where he flew in excess of 14,000 flying hours on various squadrons from a variety of platforms and in many different theatres.
Damien was built at Westlands Helicopters, Yeovil and procured by the Fleet Air Arm as a Sea King Mk 1 for the Anti-Submarine role and immediately saw service with 826 Naval Air Squadron flying from HMS Tiger and HMS Eagle.
Damien served the Fleet Air Arm with distinction for many years and in different roles before finally finding his spiritual home within the Royal Navy’s Search and Rescue force.His final Naval appointment was with 771 NAS at RNAS Culdrose, where he flew on many rescue missions in the South West of England. Most notably on the evening of 7 July 2011.
Damien, flown by Lt Cdr Mike Luscombe, Capt. Martin Roskilly RM, Lt Tom Sawyer and Sgt. RM ‘Russ’ Russell flew to the aid of two crew members from the stricken yacht ‘Andriette’ in storm force winds. So precarious was the weather and treacherous the conditions that Sgt.Russell was awarded the George Medal for his outstanding bravery. However, without Damien, none of that would have been possible.
Damien retired from the Royal Navy in 2016 and after a brief but well deserved rest at HMS Sultan was brought out of retirement by HeliOperations based in Portland Dorset, to re-commence flying operations in 2017.
Damien is now employed teaching German Navy Sea King pilots Maritime and SAR flying skills. He is flying on a regular basis thanks, mainly, to the skill and dedication of the HeliOps engineers, many of whom worked on Damien throughout his long and outstanding Naval service.
HeliOps decided that Damien should be given a day to remember, in recognition of reaching his 50th birthday, and so flew him to where it all began at what is now Leonardo Helicopters, Yeovil. From there we flew him to where he might one day finally hang up his boots at the Navy Wings hangar at RNAS Yeovilton.
The day was finished with a champagne reception back at Portland for invited guests who toasted him with a glass of champagne and a slice of birthday cake.
Happy Birthday Damien, thanks for the many years of safe flying!