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  1. ITV Report

Merlin first to land on Royal Navy's biggest warship

A Merlin helicopter has become the first aircraft to land on the Royal Navy's newest and biggest warship. HMS Elizabeth will be based in Portsmouth when her sea trials in the North Sea are complete. The carrier's flight deck measures four acres - the size of three football pitches.

The aircraft carrier left the ship yard where she was built - in Rosyth, Scotland, a few days ago.

The ship's aircraft control tower is called the Flyco Credit: MoD

The team who guided the helicopter in were trained at locations across the globe in order to be ready to take in the new ship's first flight. Commander Mark Deller is in charge of HMS Elizabeth's flying operations.

An experienced team of aircraft handlers tied the helicopter down after guiding it in Credit: MoD

"I sense all my team are pleased to be off the wall and back at sea, doing what we do best, Cdr Deller said.

"There are smiles everywhere on deck and that's a good sign. Operating live helicopters adds another dimension to our understanding of how our flight deck behaves.

"We've proven our initial ability to operate aircraft safely. Now our focus is getting the ship and all her systems fully tested and set to work ready to commence full fixed wing flying trials next year."

– Commander Mark Deller

The pilot who landed the first aircraft on the flight deck was 26-year-old Lieutenant Luke Wraith, of 820 Naval Air Squadron. He was thrilled to be making history.

"I was pretty nervous - not about making a safe landing, but knowing that every other pilot in the Navy would watch the footage and critique it.

"I'm actually quite surprised it ended up being me because I only got my flying wings 18 months ago - I was expecting it to be someone much more senior."

– Lieutenant Luke Wraith, pilot

However, Lt Wraith was not alone in the aircraft - there were four others on board, including his squadron's senior pilot Lt Cdr Steve Moseley - , a graduate of the US Navy's Test Pilot School; observer Lt Chris Bugg; and aircrew men Petty Officers Nigel Stockdale and Jonathan Holding.

The Merlin helicopter weighs 14 tonnes

"To have a 'first' in your log book is very special, but to have the first landing on the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy is something very special indeed,

"We were the final link in the chain in a process that has involved thousands of people all working very hard towards this iconic occasion.

"The challenge for us was to be prepared for any eventuality, but also to have faith in the team whose job it has been to ensure that carrier aviation is as safe as possible."

– Lt Cdr Moseley

The 820 squadron's Commanding Officer Cdr Jon Holroyd said he was proud of his team:

"For me, it's a very humbling moment, filled with pride - pride leading a team of such capable individuals, from the maintenance team who ensure the aircraft are prepared and ready, the survival equipment team who ensure the aircrew are best supported and the logistical effort that makes the team work."

– Commanding Officer Cdr Jon Holroyd, 820 Squadron