Lottie Tour Blog
To quickly introduce myself; I am Sub Lieutenant Harding and I am currently serving in the Royal Navy as an Officer training to become an Air Engineer. Both I and Lottie have now been onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for six weeks since flying out of the UK during the middle of September.
After joining the ship in Virginia, we spent several weeks at Sea before sailing in to New York City. We are now back at Sea, conducting more flight trials near the United States of America. The ship is extremely busy with it’s sailors working around the clock to ensure that the helicopters and jets onboard can carrying out the necessary flying prior to returning home in time for Christmas.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is an enormous platform and this week Lottie will be spending a bit of time in each of the Engineering Departments onboard as well as having a good look around the ship in general. During her time with the Royal Navy, Lottie has been involved in various activities. She has conducted many fitness sessions in the several gyms on board the ship which have been really enjoyable but a bit sweaty! She has also spent time watching fast jets take off from the flight deck and helped to refuel helicopters as part of a team of engineers!
As many of you may have read in the paper or seen on the news, the testing of the new F35 jets from our new aircraft carrier is hugely exciting for the Royal Navy and it also involves the Army, Royal Air Force and many civilian personnel! The ship is full of people from different backgrounds, countries and also very different jobs!
All departments on board this ship work hand in hand together on a daily basis to ensure that the needs of the flying programme are met. The engineering departments all support each other in various ways; about which you shall learn shortly.
Today, Lottie spent time in the Air Engineering (AE) Department. She learnt how the Royal Navy maintains its Merlin helicopters which are currently acting in several different roles onboard the ship.
The hangar and the flight deck are both really busy places with many people fixing aircraft, organising the daily flying programme and also ensuring both areas as clean as necessary. Before the flying programme for the day begins, personnel all over the ship inspect the flight deck to ensure there is no debris that can cause damage to the aircraft.
This department, like the other engineering departments on board has people working within it of all different ages, experiences and backgrounds. Each department within the ship is almost like its own family and the majority of its people not only work together but live together too.
Today, I introduced the Survival Equipment team to Lottie. The sailors that work within this department help to make sure that the aircrew within our helicopters have the right equipment and are able to fly safely each day. This afternoon was spent on the flight deck helping to lash down a Merlin helicopter when it landed on to refuel. The refuelling hose was extremely heavy and it took 6 people to get it to the helicopter!
Whilst we are at sea there are helicopter squadrons embarked that bring their own aircraft, engineers and supplies with them. The Ship’s AE Department however must ensure that they can work alongside the squadrons in the workshops on board in order to keep the aircraft flying as much as they are required to!
Wednesday began with an early start and a short session in the hangar with the Physical Training Instructor! The hangar can get quite hot in this part of the world, despite it’s two huge doors that look out to sea. After doing a circuit here we were then all ready to start the day! Keeping fit is not only important when you’re in the Navy but also as an Engineer I feel it helps to keep your mind healthy and prepare you well for the day ahead!
Today was spent with the Weapon Engineering department. Interestingly the department is split into various sections working with communications, networks, radar and of course weapon systems.
Petty Officer Jones has a small team of people who work for him to ensure that all weapons systems are operationally available around the clock. His team are on call for maintenance issues 24/7 and during the working day they do rounds on their compartments to check for defects, floods and other potential hazards. This helps to ensure the safety of the ship at all times!
This engineering department on board also looks after the television systems and phone networks so that the ship’s company can keep up with events happening around the world, watch films in their time off and also speak to their families. In the Network Communications Office there are big screens that show which part of the ship’s network may be malfunctioning at any one time.
The Weapon Engineers help maintain that the other departments can easily communicate with each other and they also cover security systems that monitor the status of various compartments and equipment.
Today was spent with the Marine Engineering (ME) Department on board and involved Lottie learning more about the ‘8 hour watch routine’ worked by some of the engineers in this department. This can be hard to get used to at first but it is soon a good way to sustain efficient working whilst at sea! The Marine Engineers on board HMS Queen Elizabeth have many different job roles similar to the Weapons Engineers who we spent time with yesterday!
Not only does the ME Department look after the engines and machinery spaces on board but the engineers also ensure that the aircraft lifts are functioning properly and the fire fighting systems are working as they should in case of an emergency. This department also controls the storage and supply of fuel to both the engines and also to aircraft! The sailors whose speciality is dealing with fuel on board are nicknamed ‘badgers’ due to their white and black striped safety coats!
On a less polite note, they also make sure that people have the right supply of water and that any human waste on board is managed appropriately! We use reverse osmosis plants however to create fresh water from sea water to ensure a supply of clean water to the ship’s company.
Today was also a day to participate in daily inspections of the ship known as ‘Rounds’. Evening rounds occur approximately 3 or 4 times a week and only by doing them do we ensure that the ship remains a clean and safe space to work but also that information is passed to the ship’s company from the command team.
Today was spent learning more about how the ship’s stores are replenished at sea. The ship can use helicopters to lift on equipment, food and various other stores. Today, a huge 120 pallets of supplies were lifted on to the ship! This not only means that the aircrew and engineers are kept busy but also the logistics team on board certainly have their work cut out for them! Fuel can also be supplied to the ship using large tanker ships – we call this ‘Replenishment at Sea’.
Of course, with all these stores coming onto the ship, there is a great deal of waste produced! The Ship’s Company work different duties to ensure that the waste on board is disposed of properly and that everyone does their bit to separate their rubbish up into categories such as glass, paper, food waste etc.
When the ship arrives in a port the whole of the Ship’s Company get involved and make sure that all of the rubbish on board is disposed of. It involves many chains of people all passing the rubbish from deep within the ship and down the gangway to the jetty! It can be quite a smelly job and if we are in a warmer climate; very sweaty too! It is important we do it however to ensure the ship is cleared of rubbish and ready to go back to sea, and we all make sure we have fun doing it.
Overall, I think Lottie has enjoyed her time on board HMS Queen Elizabeth as the ship conducts the first flying trials of the F35 jets! It has been exciting to see around the whole platform and particularly the engineering departments on board! It is clear that all of the engineers have to work hand in hand together to achieve the overall aim of flying both jets and helicopters off of the ship!