We had better refer to this as work-in-progress; I haven’t yet managed to get into the cockpit of a Wasp, let alone ride it. But here I am, in my gilded youth, mounted and ready to spring into action in defence of — damn, forgot my aircrew knife..
I flew the Wasp for two deployments aboard HMS Endurance, the British Navy’s Antarctic Patrol Ship. We were away from October to May, 1979-80 and 80-81, mostly supporting the British Antarctic Survey’s work in the Peninsula. We also flew David Attenborough and his team as they filmed Life in the Ice sequences for the BBC ‘s well-loved Living Planet series. Penguins, so many penguins.
I loved flying the Wasp although it was a pretty impractical beast; single engine, limited payload, fly doors-off daylight hours only and always within sight of mother. It was soon replaced by the twin-engine Lynx.
A decade or so ago I found “my” Wasp in a corner of the excellent Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. I took about 10 minutes to haul my sorry ass into the comfy right-hand seat but I got there. While surveying the strictly analogue cockpit my son Adam, then about 10 so we’re talking around 2000, clambered into the left seat, had a quick look round and promptly jettisoned his door. Maintaining my compusure, I explained how I had managed to fly the thing in a most challenging environment for two years without putting a scratch on it, and then he …
But you know what’s coming. “But Dad, it says ‘PULL HERE’!”. He’s a doctor of engineering now.
So anyhow, now I see another airframe has been restored to flying condition and is doing the summer round of air displays. I met pilot Terry Martin and he showed me around — its markings are Endurance flight! It even has the penguin device painted on the rear doors.
It’s in beautiful nick. Our helicopters also sported red noses and tails to improve our visibility against the ice glare. The year after I left, the lads had to camouflage them, like this, for the Falklands conflict. They continued to fly doors off but now at night, in winter conditions, under radio and radar silence and fitted with anti-ship missiles instead of survey equipment. I’m glad I wasn’t tested in that arena.