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Helicopter Crew Drops into Bolton School

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Lieutenant Commander (Royal Navy) Robert De Maine quite literally dropped into his former school when he and colleague Flight Lieutentant (Army Air Corps) Sam Dempsey landed their EC135 Juno helicopter on the Bolton School playing field. The Royal Navy colleagues then spent the day talking to Junior Girls and Junior Boys as well as Senior Girls and Senior Boys. Rob told how he is the Senior Pilot (SP) of 705 Naval Air Squadron, which is one of four Squadrons that operate from RAF Shawbury - approximately 80 miles from Bolton - with a fifth based at RAF Valley. He went on to explain how he and Sam are both Qualified Helicopter Instructors that help train other pilots.

Pupils of all ages were fascinated by the range of careers open to them in the armed forces and through flying. Rob told them that the best part of his job is being in the air! The boys and girls were introduced to the rescue ‘Juno’ helicopter – the ‘Ford Mondeo’ of helicopters - and shown how injured people are quickly transferred into the aircraft and securely fastened down. They learnt that the helicopter has two engines, a joystick not a steering wheel, ‘skids’ not wheels and is equipped with cutters for when they are flying below 200ft and they become entangled with power cables. Answering a wide range of questions, the colleagues explained that helicopters are harder to fly than aeroplanes, that if you fail an eye test you cannot continue your pilot training and that helicopters last longer when they are kept in hangars. Rob said, in terms of skills required for the job, the most important attribute, during training at least, has got to be perseverance. He said: 'You have good days and bad days, easy flights and more difficult ones, but you have to pass them all whether you like it or not and second chances are few and far between. Front line, and particularly in a tactical environment, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and accurately is crucial as is the ability to assimilate information quickly, allocate tasks around the crew and make real time decisions. Pretty good hand/eye/foot co-ordination is obviously helpful too.' Rob said the Junior Girls asked the most probing questions, including ‘what is the most harrowing thing you have ever seen?’ and ‘what happens when you need to go to the toilet?’  

After leaving Bolton School Boys’ Division in 2002, Rob studied for a BSc in Physics at Lancaster University before attending Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in September 2005. Since leaving BRNC and commencing flying training to the present day, he said there has always been studying to be done in one subject or another: ‘Having left BRNC – and over the next four years - I flew four different airframes on five squadrons amassing approximately 250 flying hours, 130 simulator hours with at least 300 hours of ground School and plenty of private study. Almost five years after joining the Royal Navy I was awarded my pilot wings and joined the front line. Training doesn’t stop there though and I'm still learning and being assessed continuously.' 

Rob specialises in flying helicopters involved with anti-submarine warfare but has spent most of his time involved with airborne surveillance or humanitarian operations.


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