RAF helicopters celebrate 90 years of service with joint flight


The helicopters are displaying bespoke anniversary tail art before returning to standard operational markings early next year. Cpl Tim Laurence for RAF Photo

A formation flight of specially painted Chinook and Puma helicopter has taken place to mark over 90 years of combined service.  The occasion saw the aircraft make a commemorative flight over a number of locations in the South of England displaying their bespoke anniversary tail art. 

The two uniquely painted airframes celebrated their individual anniversaries earlier this year, but this is their first formation flight as a pair.  The Puma (XW224), from RAF Benson, has completed 50 years of service; while the Chinook (ZD984), from RAF Odiham, has completed 40 years of service.  Each aircraft’s tail art was especially commissioned to commemorate the significant anniversaries of their entry into service with the RAF.  The flightpath included several iconic sites, stretching from the Isle of Wight to central London; with each location offering unique joint training opportunities for the crews who will often work together on operations.

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“It’s an absolute honor to command the Puma Force in its 50th anniversary year.  The Support Helicopter Force has made a vast contribution to operations around the world and in the UK, with the Puma and Chinook delivering over 90 years of combined service.  All those who have worked for or with the Puma Force over the last five decades should be incredibly proud of the part they have played, and continue to play, in its successes,” said Group Captain Paton, Puma Force Commander.

Both the Pumas and Chinooks have operated as part of the Joint Helicopter Command for over 20 years.  The longest serving of the two aircraft, the Puma is a medium-lift support helicopter which entered service on Jan. 29, 1971.  Over the last five decades, it has supported combat and humanitarian operations around the world, including:

  • Northern Ireland
  • Bosnia
  • Kosovo
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Mozambique
  • The Caribbean

In the UK it has also supported critical Defence tasks such as security for the Olympic Games in London and support for the Scottish Ambulance Service during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

“For a combined 90 years, the Chinook and Puma have played a vital role in the UK’s defense capability, supporting our people at home and overseas.  I am privileged to command the Chinook element of the Support Helicopter Force and I look forward to seeing the Chinook play an equally important role as part of the next generation RAF,” said Group Captain McGurk, Chinook Force Commander

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The Chinook, a heavy-lift helicopter with its distinctive twin engine, tandem rotor heads, arrived into RAF service on Nov. 22, 1980.  Throughout its 40 years of service, the Chinook has operated in every major conflict since the Falklands War in 1982 including life-saving medical evacuations.  It has made an immeasurable contribution to the Service, supporting communities across the UK with its extensive and adaptable lift capability including flood relief efforts and life-saving patient transfers in the UK.

The helicopters are expected to be returned to their standard operational markings early next year.

This press release was prepared and distributed by the Royal Air Force.

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