The navy engineers who keep planes in the air in warzone

TEAM Naval aircraft engineers, from left, Phil Robets, Lloyd Boyce, James Brooks and Andy Carter
TEAM Naval aircraft engineers, from left, Phil Robets, Lloyd Boyce, James Brooks and Andy Carter

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IF a helicopter or plane goes down in Afghanistan, these are the men sent out to recover it and get it back up in the air.

The elite team of aircraft engineers from Portsmouth’s 1710 Naval Air Squadron have been in Camp Bastion since November on a three-month tour.

Their job sees them on short notice to scramble day or night to aircraft which has come under attack from the Taliban or is suffering mechanical problems out on the front line.

The News caught up with the engineers on the Camp Bastion flight line just as they had been called to look at a C-130 Hercules plane which had come under fire from enemy fighters.

Chief Petty Officer Andy Carter, 49, who is based at HMS Nelson, said: ‘We’ve got a C-130 which has landed in Kandahar with battle damage. It’s taken on small arms fire so we’re going out to look at it and patch it then we’ll see where we’ll go from here.

‘We are like heavy duty car mechanics. We are the go-to guys if your aircraft gets a crack or you get shot at in the warzone.’

With that, the four men jumped on a Lynx helicopter and disappeared into the sky on their next mission.

Despite the dangers they may face, the navy aircraft engineers have all volunteered to be out in the warzone.

Chief Petty Officer Phil Roberts, 45, of Fareham, said: ‘I wanted to get out here and do my bit. So many other people in the forces are out here and I felt it was my time to step up and help.’

For Petty Officer James Brooks, 32, it is his third tour of duty in Afghanistan since March 2009 and he will be back for a fourth time in September.

He said: ‘I enjoy it because we are doing a job out here which is making a difference. At any point we can be called out – we are trained to go anywhere.’

He added: ‘Going out on the ground gives you a massive appreciation about what the soldiers do and how brilliant they are.

‘They are massively underpaid in my opinion.’

Chief Petty Officer Lloyd Boyce, 25, of Southsea, is missing his first wedding anniversary and was away from home for his son’s first Christmas.

He said: ‘I felt obliged to come out here and do my bit. I had no children at the time, but two weeks later I found out my wife Fiona was pregnant with Rory. It’s hard being away from them but we’ve got an important job to do out here.’