Sea Control 91 – Falklands War 8 Air Engineering Challenges

seacontrol2Commander Steve George was the Deputy Aircraft Engineering Officer 820sqn RNAS, Sea King squadron on HMS Invincible in the Falklands War. He provides a strong overview of the engineering challenges posed to aviation in the 1982 Falklands War.
He has had a long career since, and included work on the F-35.

3 thoughts on “Sea Control 91 – Falklands War 8 Air Engineering Challenges”

  1. Interesting to hear Steve on this. Yes…. the initial logistics played well to get the Squadron working … and to sustain it. I was an AEO of three Seaking Aircraft on RFA Fort Grange.. We joined in later in the war and our challenge was different. All the spares had gone! Those which remained were ‘lost’ in a paper driven log jam of boxes deep in a hold hurriedly loaded prior to sailing. While we did operate intensively, the flight stayed on peace time servicing levels, which meant that eventually on our return in October, the aircraft were actually ready to re-deploy… The environment of a carrier and an RFA are so totally different. We were the RFA air group, while 820 were part of a significant package. I could get a deck almost when I wanted it – with some limitations – while CVS ops would mean that deck access for ground runs etc would be really tight, so I am not saying we were better in any way – we simply looked at the challenge we had and solved it within our environment. Good intentions may not have served us well …. as some spares we did receive had been hurridley turned around. In particular we had issues with several engine changes but as with all things these issues were ‘worked’ by a hugely hard working team of senior rates. The isolation of our flight was significant…. no-one wanted to know about any issues we had as long as we could keep doing what was asked of us which is what we did. The flight maintainers, the ship and the Ship’s own supply organisation worked well together and on occasion achieved things I would never believe possible.. It is interesting to hear these back-room stories. Few of us have met or been able to compare notes after the event and it was with some trepidation that I made a presentation to the current 824 team – Merlins – about the issues we faced. Yes… today’s engineering challenges are different but sometimes the same…. and I am so glad I don’t have to do a Merlin MGB change – that is one huge box!

    1. John,

      Thanks for the comments – and so nice to hear from you. Your challenges in the ‘follow on’ phase were every bit as tough as the ones we faced, and the RFA environment posed a whole new set of problems that we didn’t face on a CVS. Very good points, sir.

      My take is that the RN’s air engineer training system was (and continues to be) of such a standard that we were all well equipped to handle the challenges thrown at us. We were also fortunate in that we worked in a true ‘team’ environment, where the Air Engineers were accorded an equivalent level of professional respect from the operators. That was vital.

      As I said in the podcast, we also stayed on peacetime servicing on 820, but that was an inspired decision by our squadron AEO, and actually went against the directions from the UK based staff. (A Nelson moment?) So, like John’s outfit, we came back from a 6 month deployment, having broken every record there was for operational flying rates, serviceability, and numbers of sorties, with 9 aircraft ready to go again. That was a great deal for the UK taxpayer.

      As we type, 8 plus Tornadoes and 1500 personnel are delivering two sorties per day over Iraq. Sorry, not good enough.

      Best regards


  2. Hi Steve, Agreement all round then I think. I was left almost entirely to my own devices with no guidance from anyone at all! So….thats where the magnificent package of training we all had received kicked in. I recount the training that led to my own deployment in 1982 and can’t believe how comprehensive it was. As I recall the RN were beginning to transition to a rather different approach to training at that time, but my Senior Rates were all old school – incredibly well trained or I’d like to say recipients of a great RN education. Could not agree more that this aspect was crucial.

    We spent happy days climbing over countless boxes to try to identify aircraft stores when they were needed and if I regret anything, I wish I had done more of this. Once or twice went on the hunt for SHAR spares for your SHAR team.

    Availability was good gusting excellent at times despite all the issues of support. I eventually got to work on aircraft in theatre but after the hostility phase which had transitioned to and then back from war time servicing with the issues of corrosion that inevitable emerged in places you’d least expect!
    was not a happy time and was challenging for all involved. When you need to service in toto 5 sets of Seaking undercarriage on two platforms and the stores system sends you the spares you need in piece meal packages. I always wondered why a complete set could not have been ‘borrowed’ from Culdrose and used on an exchange basis…. but then it would have taken the hard work away from the front line.

    I’ve got the numbers for our Corporate Deployment in a file including my SMR’s original notes.

    My last job in the RN was at FOF3 a couple of years after Corporate and I was disappointed though not surprised to learn how little of the lessons learnt were to be taken forward at all for the RFA activity. But I guess that is life…..

    Well done on the peace time servicing – yes – I recall that we were not entirely alone – and I marvel at squeezing this in on a CVS, but then that CVS was HMS Invincible!



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