An exciting day out for anyone interested in helicopters, aircraft and the Royal Navy, the annual RNAS Culdrose Air Day takes place just outside Helston on the last Thursday in July.

The Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose is one of the largest helicopter bases in Europe and provides the Royal Navy with a base for its highly specialised squadrons who deal in airborne surveillance, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine defence as well as search and rescue missions.

RNAS Culdrose Air Day

Gates open early (at 9:30am) for visitors to the RNAS Culdrose Air Day which includes plenty of exciting flying displays by both Royal Navy helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. The date has been moved from earlier in July to coincide with school holidays, but locals fear that the increased number of visitors will mean long traffic jams, so do set off early.

This is a wonderful chance to see behind the scenes of this military Fleet Air Arm, which is the airborne side of the Royal Navy. The day includes plenty of totally awesome flying displays by some of the best precision and stunt pilots in the UK. There are several aircraft for visitors to climb aboard and explore, and you can actually meet and chat with the aircrew that are known for their bravery and heroic rescues.

It's quite an exciting opportunity for any youngster dreaming of joining one of the military services in later life. There is also a flight simulator in which visitors can test their skills without endangering the public!

Motorcycle stunts, parachutes and MoD dog displays

One of my favourite parts of the Culdrose Air Day is watching the Royal Navy Gun Teams compete against each other. Usually they have to dismantle a field gun and push it through a hole-in-the-wall, sprint a distance with the various parts and reassemble it, ending with a triumphant shot! Seeing the teams neck and neck always creates a lot of cheering on from the crowd as the teams sweat it out in their battle for boasting rights!

The HM Royal Marines Band is another stirring display as they march in their uniform with highly polished brass instruments and ceremonial drums decorated with the Royal Marines insignia. The White Helmets are the land-based version of the Red Arrows, and they put on a breathtaking performance of motorcycle stunts and precision skills to thrill the audience.

The MoD Police Dogs also perform in the arena, showing amazing ability, obedience and agility as they “seize” the (well-padded) arms of the bad guy! Finally, look out for the Royal Navy Raiders Parachute Display Team who jump from the skies to land with pinpoint accuracy in the arena, complete with coloured smoke streaming from their heels.

The role of RNAS Culdrose

RNAS Culdrose is a training station and naval base as well as an industrial site with over 3,000 personnel and around 75 aircraft. It trains aircrew, Navy air traffic controllers, firefighters and other key personnel before they are drafted out to various naval air squadrons for service.
For the technically minded, there are five types of aircraft which are based at RNAS Culdrose: the Westland Sea King HAR5, the Westland Sea King ASAC7, the Westland Merlin HMA1, the BAe Hawk T1 and the BAe Jetstream T2.

Normally under high security as a secure military installation, visitors only get one chance a year to visit the base and see these stunning demonstrations and stunts, although there is a coach tour around the Air Station from April through October. Advance tickets start at £12 for adults (£15 at the gate) with generous concessions for children and families.

Locals also know RNAS Culdrose as the base for Search and Rescue missions and the squadron is on standby 365 days a year. The red and grey navy helicopters often attend emergencies on land and sea and have to brave some very rough weather and stormy seas to save lives.

Have you ever been behind the security fence at RNAS Culdrose? Do share your experiences with others who may be thinking of attending this exciting Air Day event. What was the best moment for you?