A Royal Navy specialist at RNAS Culdrose has given a fascinating glimpse into life at sea with his own diary of a typically busy day of flying operations.

Able Rate Supply Chain William Downie spoke of his time serving on the supply ship and tanker RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) Fort Victoria.

The 37-year-old, who lives in Falmouth, is a member of a ten-strong Royal Navy team from RNAS Culdrose’s 1700 Naval Air Squadron. They serve alongside their RFA colleagues to defend the ship and allow helicopters to operate safely.

AB Downie has two main jobs, to manage all the aircraft spare parts and to help oversee flying. The ship is in UK waters and is preparing for a busy day of pre-planned OST (operational sea training) with Royal Navy Merlin Mk2 helicopters.

Falmouth Packet:

SC William Downie onboard RFA Fort Victoria in his anti-flash fire gear

Here he is in his own words (with explanations provided for the navy jargon):

7am: Get up and go for a shower and then head to breakfast. I avoid the fry-up and go for porridge this morning. The whole flight team share the same mess and we usually all meet up in the morning and have a cup of tea before starting work.

8am: I am duty ‘mess chefs’ today. This involves cleaning the showers, heads and mess.

9am: Flight deck FOD plod - all hands to carry out a slow sweep of the deck looking for any small objects which could cause a danger to the aircraft or personnel (known as FOD for foreign object debris). My specific area for the FOD plod is the flyco (flying control) wings. Once that’s done, it is signed as completed and repeated every six hours while there’s flying.

9.15am: I go down to the air engineering office to see if they need any assistance with any jobs they are doing. I help with greasing the ring-bolts as part of their flight deck maintenance. Then I go down to the air store office and check my emails and supply responses on the signal machine.

10am: ‘Stand-easy’ in the mess for half an hour.

10:30am: Square away any supply chain related work I am doing in my office then attend the flying brief.

11am: Flying briefing (to hear details of today’s tasking) with CO (ship’s commanding officer), XO (executive officer), bridge officers, AVSO (aviation support officer), FDO (flight deck officer) and AETs (air engineering technicians) and others.

11.30am: I go for an early lunch back to the mess. It’s salad today as I am trying to keep in shape - but hear ‘prepare for flying’ pipe at 11.45am.

11.45am: I make my way up to meet AVSO (aviation support officer) in flyco and carry out my pre-flying lights and equipment checks. As the flyco logger (flying control logistician) I control the stop/go light’s under the direction of the AVSO. This is a vital role that assures the FDO (flight deck officer) that he is clear to land and launch aircraft from one or two spot.

12.05pm: Ship pipes ‘hands to flying stations’. Flying serials (missions) normally last three to four hours.

Today there’s a Merlin Mk2 out of Culdrose. The pilots are doing their currency (up-to-dateness) training in deck landings. The aircraft comes in on a circuit to land 10 to 15 times. Sometimes the engineers lash-on and chocks-on, sometimes they don’t depending on the serial. There’s a refuel as well.

We are also conducting a procedural flyex (flying exercise) - it is basically flying with serials to test flyco, AC (aircraft) or whole-ship and bridge reactions. Events such as fuel spills, emergency low-visibility approaches, communications failure and low approaches are just a few of the serials that are thrown in.

It’s good to be in flyco and watch both RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) and RN (Royal Navy) working together to achieve one aim: safety of life and ship. It’s good to peer out of the flyco window and see first-hand the improvements made after each CODEX (crash-on-deck exercise) by ships’ company reacting on the flight deck.

4.14pm: Flight deck FOD plod again.

5.10pm: Fill in the paperwork and logs of today’s serials for the AVSO to update.

5.30pm: Time for a bit of a break and have our scran (dinner). Tonight it’s steak and chips.

6.30pm: Flying brief and muster to do all our pre-flying checks. Up in flyco for another two hours in the evening. At sunset, order is given to darken ship.

I log in all serials, missions, deck landings, squadron and cab (helicopter) details, time airborne and what the ship has achieved in regards to aviation currency. This information then gets passed to the AVSO who updates everything online to show the competency of the ship.

Lastly, I tidy up flyco and put the batteries on charge for comms (communications) tomorrow.

8.40pm: Free time in the evening in the department is quite social. We sometimes have a cheese board or curry evenings. Tonight we play video games and board games together and then watch a movie before heading off to sleep.