Amazing images of a Somerset aircrew precisely landing an iconic Royal Navy Sea King on a small rock on top of a mountain in the Arctic Circle have been captured.
The aircrew of pilots Lieutenant Commander Andy Clarke, of Butleigh near Glastonbury, Lieutenant Phil Butler, of Mere in Wiltshire, and aircrewman Dan Waldron RM, of Blandford in North Dorset, were undergoing cold weather survival and tactical training with the RNAS Yeovilton-based Commando Helicopter Force in Bardufoss, in Norway.
The stunning videos and photographs of the impressive stunt were caught by Western Gazette journalists for thisissomerset.co.uk at 2,850ft on the snow covered peak of Mount Istindan at 2,850ft
Lieutenant Commander Andy Clarke is the lead flight instructor for pilots training 160 miles in the Arctic Circle.
He said: “The advantage we have in flying in Norway is that the snow kick-up created by the helicopters simulates what the sand does in Afghanistan. The snow doesn’t damage the aircraft whereas the sand can have a devastating impact.
“The snow whiteout will obliterate pilot visibility. Learning to fly and handle the aircraft in these conditions is a major skill taught here in Norway which can then be used anywhere else in the world.”
Lieutenant Jim Pugh, an air engineering officer who lives in North Cadbury, explained some of the difficulties with maintaining aircraft in the Arctic.
He said: “Metal at minus 30 degrees becomes like super glue and you can stick to it if you touch it.
“There is lots of oil and mechanical fluid like the fuel which can cause cold burns and with the thick cold dense air we have in Norway there is a lot of static electricity.
“The engineers have to be looking out for cold parts of the aircraft that may have become brittle, electrical faults and the effect water can have in the aircraft after the snow has melted.
“The intricate work some of the engineers face can be hard enough in normal circumstances, but the extreme cold will lead to very cold hands and fingers, making it even more difficult.”