RAF land Chinook in Portsmouth to help restore 'exciting' wildlife habitat

THE Royal Air Force has been taking on a slightly different sort of mission in Portsmouth, as it helps to restore an important wildlife habitat.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 6:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 6:46 pm

A Chinook helicopter from Joint Helicopter Command has delivered 56 tonnes of aggregate – a mixture of sand, gravel, crushed stone and more – to Pewit Island in Portsmouth Harbour, between Portchester Castle and Gosport.

The island, administered by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, will be restored to provide a breeding and roosting area for a range of species.

Due to the remoteness of the site and shallow water, airlifting the aggregate was the only viable option, which is why Number 28 Squadron from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire was brought in to assist.

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The RAF Chinook dropping off aggregate at Pewit Island, Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Morgan

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Reserves officer for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Chris Lycett, said: This project is very exciting and has the potential to return breeding seabirds to Portsmouth Harbour, something that has not been seen in a very long time.

‘Working with the various partners for this project has been great and I am really pleased that it went ahead after several years of planning.

‘Special thanks to Day Aggregates and Tarmac for providing the shingle.’

Pewit Island is a restricted-access nature reserve, and so boats cannot be landed on the island – as this would disturb the wildlife and damage the fragile saltmarsh habitats.

Captain of the Chinook, Flight Lieutenant David Monaghan, said: ‘The instructors on Number 28 Squadron are highly experienced, operational aircrew and need to retain their own skills while teaching the future frontline crews.

‘This task was an ideal opportunity for us to do that while supporting an important conservation project.’

Major Jon Wells, officer commanding the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, added: ‘This task was a fantastic opportunity for members of our Helicopter-Handling Team to use their specialist skills to assist the RAF Chinook crew in lifting and moving the aggregate to Pewit Island.

‘We do not regularly work in a maritime environment such as this, so it is good to be able to work together with so many military and civilian agencies.

‘This is great training for our current and future operations.’

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