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Somerset Live: Royal Navy 'Legend' Still Flying After 50 Years And 9,200 Hours In The Air


War Hero
"A local Navy veteran who has been honoured by the Queen is celebrating a monumental 50 years in the armed forces.

Chief petty officer Andy Vanes, described as a "Fleet Air Arm legend", joined the Royal Navy aged 16 and has flown countless aircraft in 9,200 flying hours across the world since 1970.

Mr Vanes spent much of his career working at RNAS Yeovilton, and was awarded the Queen's Volunteer Reserves Medal in the 2019 New Year's Honours list, receiving the award from HRH Prince William at Buckingham Palace.

Amazingly he is still taking part in historic flights when an old Swordfish craft tours the country.

RNAS Yeovilton has issued a short biography of his action-packed Royal Navy career.

It reads: "Andy Vanes was born in Tipton in the West Midlands but grew up in Gloucester before he left in 1970 aged sixteen to join the Royal Navy.

"He initially trained as a chef before transferring to the Aircrewman branch in 1977.

"After training at Lee on Solent and basic flying training at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Andy was streamed to the Wasp HAS Mk 1 and completed his operational flying training as a Missile Aimer at 703 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) at RNAS Portland.

"Appointments to HMS Naiad and HMS Ashanti followed before he qualified as a Wessex HU Mk5 SAR crewman at 772 NAS.

"Further appointments to Wasps followed with the training team at 829 NAS and as the ships flight crewman onboard HMS Euryalus.

"In 1982, Andy completed Commando Operational flying training at 707 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton.

"The period during and after the Falklands conflict resulted in a number of short notice appointments to 772 ‘A’ Flight onboard HMS Illustrious, 771 Search and Rescue flight at RNAS Culdrose and 845 NAS on Ascension Island.

"Eventually returning to Yeovilton for the Sea King HC Mk4 conversion course and subsequently 846 NAS. This was followed by an appointment as the Senior Aircrewman based at RNoAF Bardufoss in Norway and 707 NAS."

Andy left the Royal Navy in 1993 and joined the RNR Air Branch the following year.

As a reservist, in 1998 he joined Heron Flight (the Royal Navy’s communication flight) as one of the operations team and subsequently flew as a qualified right hand seat crew member in the Jetstream T3 aircraft until the demise of the unit in 2008.

The biography continues: "He joined Agusta Westlands in 2010 on contract to teach foreign students based in Vergiate in Italy and returned in 2012 to 848 NAS.

"After a stint with 845 NAS in their Operations room he joined 825 NAS as their Chief Aircrewman.

"He has amassed a total of over 9,200 flying hours, of which over 100 have been achieved in the Swordfish.

"He joined the Royal Navy Historic Flight as a volunteer Swordfish crewman in 2012 and is one of the team that regularly occupies either the Observer or the Telegraphist Air Gunners (TAG) cockpit in the Swordfish when she is travelling around the country.

"Outside of aviation he is a very keen chef, other hobbies include photography and live sports."

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