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Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Friday, 23 July 2010 11:31 UK
Black Cats display team's first female pilot at show
Lt Frater, Black Cats
Lt Frater will perform with the Black Cats at Bournemouth Air Festival

The Royal Navy's Westland Lynx helicopter display team, Black Cats, will be one of many attractions seen at the Bournemouth Air Festival in August.

This year the Black Cats have a new lead pilot, Lt Becky Frater.

She is the only female Lynx Helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy and her new role is an extension of her day job as an helicopter instructor.

She said: "I've been flying for nearly 14 years so it's not such a novelty but hopefully it sets a good example."

'Natural choice'

She regards display piloting as "a unique opportunity":

"It enables you to fly the aircraft to the within its limits, but to it's limits - and often synchronished with another aircraft.

"I suppose [my gender] is a big thing but I meet the same standards that the guys do, and it seems a natural choice for me to do it."

Black Cats
The name Black Cat comes from from the Wildcat insignia of the Royal Navy 702 Squadron's badge

The Black Cats' appearance at the Bournemouth Air Festival is one of many performed by the two-person team between May and October.

"Fast, agile"

But unlike the Red Arrows, Black Cat pilots Lt Frater and her colleague Lt Chris Chambers volunteer for the displays, and fit their commitments around their naval duties.

She is a helicopter instructor with 702 Naval Air Squadron based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset.

She said: "My primary job is to instruct young pilots coming through on their pilots course to fly the Lynx safely and effectively from the back of [Naval] ships.

"The role of the aircraft is so versatile, it operates at sea and overland. There isn't a job we don't do, and the training is diverse and that's why I enjoy it."

She describes flying the craft as "fantastic, fast, agile and manoeuvrable".

Aerial manoeuvres

The name Black Cat comes from from the Wildcat insignia of the Royal Navy 702 Squadron's badge, and the term 'black catting', which is a Naval term for friendly but competitive one-upmanship.

"We're proud to show off the helicopter and to show that the Navy's fleet air arm do exist and have a major role to play - it's a great job."

The Black Cats have a new routine of aerial manoeuvres which includes tilting a helicopter 90 degrees so that the nose is facing downwards.

Other movements include the 'carousel' - when two helicopters go nose-to-nose and 'dance' with each other.

She said: "Hopefully the people at Bournemouth will enjoy it."

The Bournemouth Air Festival runs between 19 - 22 August. BBC Radio Solent will be providing full coverage of the event across the four days.


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