MP's Column

Air Day at RNAS Culdrose may have been fog-bound and disappointing for aviation enthusiasts as the intended air display did not take place, however, it gave the opportunity to say goodbye to Captain Adrian Orchard who has now left with his family to take up a post looking after our F-35 jets in California.

Captain Orchard's time in charge at Culdrose has been brief (just 19 months) but he has made a significant impression on the base. I have met him on a number of occasions. We walked together for civic parades in Penzance and Helston, danced the Flora together (as a set of four) and enjoyed a meal in his home earlier in the year.

The real work has been the charge, led by Captain Orchard, to increase the number of skilled apprentice places on the base. We have met with businesses and training providers to progress this and I was pleased to take the then Apprenticeship Minister, Nick Boles MP, to RNAS Culdrose to meet the apprentices and their trainers in April this year.

The loss of the Search and Rescue 771 Squadron from Culdrose was disappointing but Captain Orchard was always quick to impress on people the continued significance of RNAS Culdrose. He regularly talked of a bright and rosy future as the base develops the capability of the Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carriers.

In Cornwall we are often guilty of talking ourselves down but the rest of the UK and the world is looking our way as we prepare for the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales Aircraft Carriers.

Both on time and on budget these huge aircraft carriers will be in service soon and without our air station, its aircraft, people and training facilities, these new ships will not be able to operate.

Culdrose is central to a future Royal Navy with its newest 700X Squadron and emerging unmanned aviation systems and the Navy's Fleet Air Arm F35 Lightning jets.

I am told Captain Orchard's replacement is equally keen to see a growth in skilled jobs on the base and create more apprenticeship opportunities.

Derek Thomas
Member of Parliament for St Ives