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‘A roller coaster r


A FLEET Air Arm pilot has become the latest – and last – to successfully complete a Day Carrier Qualification in the Super Etendard Modernisé with the French Navy.


Lt Cdr Ian Sloan, previously a Sea Harrier FA2 and Harrier GR7/9 pilot, has been serving with Flotille 17F, based at Landivisiau in Brittany,


since September


2013, and flying the Super Etendard Modernisé (SEM)


since April this year. Lt Cdr Sloan is serving with the French Navy as part of the RN Long Lead Specialist Skills program, which exists to ensure that the Navy maintains core aviation skills that will be required as HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares to embark aircraft over the coming years. The Lancaster House


agreement between the UK and France has also been a successful medium for the exchange of ideas and concepts – the French Navy is of similar size and global outlook to their counterparts north of the Channel. “I arrived in France in September 2013 and was immediately immersed in the business of flying,” said Lt Cdr Sloan.


“Initial familiarization with French airspace and procedures was carried out in a Dassault Falcon 10 corporate jet operated by Flotille 57S at Landivisiau – a standard course given to all prospective fighter pilots in the French Navy.


“Ground school for the SEM


was carried out by technical staff in the training cell at Landivisiau rather than on the squadron, and this was particularly challenging as I was still very much learning the language, far less worrying about the aircraft! “Happily, through the use


lLt Cdr Ian Sloan waits for the catapult to launch his Super Etendard from the flight deck of French carrier FS Charles de Gaulle


Super Etendard pictures: CENTEX GAé, Marine Nationale


of diagrams and pictures, we cracked through. “The simulator phase followed


ROYAL Navy fast-jet pilot Lt Cdr Ian Sloan has been plying his trade in a French strike fighter on board aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle – and has written his name into the record books. Here is his account of work – and life – on board a porte-avions nucléaire.


– the SEM simulator has full motion, though the visuals are limited to a TV screen in front of the pilot. “That said, it is a very useful procedures trainer. “At this stage my conversion


was interrupted as the squadron embarked in the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle for the deployment Bois Belleau. “I should add now that the SEM is to be retired in 2016, and preparations for this are well under way,


closure of all but one squadron. “As


I including the arrived,


the last two French Navy students had graduated


conversion course, which had been run by a training flight attached to the squadron. “Now that they had graduated,


even that flight had been disbanded and my arrival met with some Gallic shrugs and the idea that I’d complete my conversion ‘on the job...’ “Embarking with the squadron


from their


the aircraft for the damage the Argentinian version inflicted on our Fleet during the Falklands Conflict, but it remains a viable weapons platform, and whilst it retains its maritime strike (Exocet) capability,


also be armed with cannon, bombs,


reconnaissance pods, as well as missiles for self-defence. “Indeed, the SEM operated in Afghanistan alongside our own Harrier GR9 and more recently took part in operations over Libya and remains a central part of French Navy offensive operations planning. “The cockpit is


clockwork, though with a radar screen right in front of the pilot, just below the head-up display. “A compact space, it can get


targeting pods and it can


very uncomfortable very quickly, and it is important to organise maps and charts carefully before setting off. “In flight the aircraft is smooth, low level – the


particularly at


was a great opportunity to get to know the team. “The opportunity to view the squadron in action and see the relationships across various sections in the carrier was ideal, though leaving a family behind after less than three months in a foreign country was challenging – I think we’re over it now! “Returning to Landivisiau


for a quick ground school and simulator refresher got me ready for my first solo. “There are no two-seat or dual control SEMs, and so all early flights are monitored closely by a second aircraft – with an instructor pilot ready to


pearls of wisdom where required! “The SEM is an old aircraft – in the RN we tend to remember


l Lt Cdr Sloan in the cockpit of his Super Etendard on the flight deck of Charles de Gaulle


offer


engine provides enough power to easily reach the limiting speed of 620 knots.


“It is easy to see that the aircraft was designed for low level strike from the outset. “Having converted to the jet, the goal was to achieve at least 50 hours of flight time in order for me to commence the work up to the Carrier Qualification (CQ) scheduled for October. “The CQ is forecast to provide


the right number of ‘fresh’ pilots to the front line. “The CQ period tends to fall ahead of a large deployment and is a good opportunity for some ‘deck warming’ as air and ground crews get up to speed with operating from the carrier. “It is normal for pilots to have


graduated from type conversion, so they tend to have more hours than the minimum and be more ‘comfortable’ with the aircraft they are landing on the carrier. “I would be qualifying with the bare minimum, and despite my experience around the Invincible-class carriers, this was very much an old dog learning a new trick. “The first step in the CQ process is to ‘qualify’ ashore, by flying circuits to the dummy deck at Landivisiau under the watchful eyes of the Officiers d’Appontage (OAs) – Landing Signal Officers to you and me. “We fly Appontages Simulatées Sur Piste (ASSP), or what the Americans call Field Carrier Landing Practice, ad nauseam. “This is where I get to learn a brand of French that wasn’t in the language course...


“There is no time for English


l (Above) FS Charles de Gaulle picture MV Hartland Point two years ago


14 DECEMBER 2014: www.navynews.co.uk


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