RAF personnel in Afghanistan raise money for Comic Relief

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Pulling a Chinook helicopter along the ground in a race against time is not something that would normally happen in Afghanistan, but for this year's Red Nose Day RAF personnel flexed their muscles to support the cause.

Three teams of personnel from 1310 Flight challenged each other to pull a Chinook transport helicopter along a 70-metre-long taxiway in the quickest time possible to raise money for Comic Relief.

Two teams of engineers and one of aircrew battled against the searing heat and dust, not to mention the 16-tonne beast itself, in a bid to gain the fastest time and support the charity.

1310 Flight are raising money for someone very close to their hearts; a member of their team in Afghanistan was diagnosed with a terminal illness last month and repatriated to the UK. A percentage of the money they raise will go to the family or their chosen charity. The team are hoping to raise over £600 from the event.

In a not very evenly matched competition, victory went to the team of engineers, who won with a time of 35 seconds; second place, in 48 seconds, went to the weary engineers who had just completed a 12-hour shift, with the aircrew coming a respectable third.

Engineering Officer Flight Lieutenant Alexys Colyer said:

We had reached the mid-point of our tour and recently moved to a new location. We knew Red Nose Day was coming up as well and we wanted to commemorate all these things by doing something a bit different; this seemed like a good idea… at the time!

The RAF operates the largest fleet of Chinook support helicopters after the US Army and they have been operating in Afghanistan since late 2006.

As the most versatile workhorse of British air operations in theatre, the Chinook has been responsible for delivering personnel and essential supplies to forward operating and patrol bases across Helmand province.

They act as the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) helicopters for ISAF and Afghan casualty extraction, as well as deploying combat troops against narcotic facilities and insurgent strongholds.

Flight Lieutenant Alexys Colyer from 1310 Flight gets into the Red Nose Day spirit at Camp Bastion
Flight Lieutenant Alexys Colyer from 1310 Flight gets into the Red Nose Day spirit at Camp Bastion [Picture: Sergeant Alison Baskerville, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

Chinooks are used primarily for troop-carrying and for load-carrying (both internal and underslung) and can carry up to 54 troops or 10 tonnes of freight.

The cabin is large enough to accommodate two Land Rovers, while the three underslung load hooks allow a huge flexibility in the type and number of loads that can be carried.

Secondary roles include Search and Rescue and casualty evacuation (a total of 24 stretchers can be carried).

The crew consists of either two pilots, or a pilot and navigator, and two air loadmasters. The aircraft can be armed with two M134 six-barrelled miniguns and an M60 machine gun.