At their last evening meeting of 2012 members of the Probus Club of Basingstoke enjoyed the company of retired RAF Squadron Leader Chris Perkins, who lives in Kempshott, who gave an illustrated talk about his civilian role with the Queen’s Helicopter Flight.
With a history of Royal interest in flying, going back to the first World War, it came as a surprise to learn that these days the Queen owns only one aircraft, a Sikorsky helicopter, used solely for principal members of the Royal Household in their official duties. This came about as a result of the withdrawal from RAF service and non-replacement of the Royal Wessex helicopters back in 1998.
Now based within secure VIP helicopter premises at civilian Blackbushe Airport, the Queen’s Helicopter Flight operates with a staffing level of less than a dozen people and is part of the Royal Travel Organisation centred at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen’s helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76C, registered G-XXEB, is upgraded in various ways from the previous version including a more powerful engine.
Chris Perkins is one of four Helicopter Landing Site Officers, responsible for the planning, surveying and recording helicopter landing sites around the country for various Royal Household visits. His job also involves driving to the planned destination to ensure that all the necessary safety and risk assessments are carried out and dealing with local personnel to ensure that there are no hitches when the aircraft arrives and departs.
This was a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the scenes whenever a member of the Royal family travels around the country.
The Probus Club of Basingstoke are always interested to hear from potential members who are initially encouraged to visit their web site, http://www.probusbasingstoke.wordpress.com for more information. Alternatively you can contact their secretary Bryan Harvey by email, firstname.lastname@example.org , or phone (01256) 321473 for an informal discussion.