Helicopter crash kills female pilot

THE first female Royal Navy pilot to die while on service was one of two to perish when their helicopter crashed while returning from an exercise in the Atlantic.

Lieutenant Jenny Lewis, 25, was acting as observer to pilot Lieutenant Rod Skidmore, 39, when their Lynx helicopter went down on Wednesday about 200 miles off the coast of Virginia in the US.

She is believed to be the first female pilot or observer to die while serving with the Royal Navy, a spokesman said.

Lt Lewis’s mother, Jo, paid tribute to her daughter and said it helped the family to know her daughter was carrying out her job when she died.

The crash happened as the aircraft was returning to the Royal Navy warship, HMS Richmond.

The Ministry of Defence said they believed the two flight staff had died but said a search operation to recover the missing crew members would continue.

A third crew member who suffered minor injuries was rescued.

Lt Lewis, who had also served on HMS London and HMS Northumberland, had been in the Royal Navy for four years and was always determined to fly, her mother said.

Mrs Lewis added: "The navy was her life. We are hoping that a memorial service can be held at the Royal Navy Air Station in Yeovilton."

An MoD spokeswoman said: "Obviously this is a very sad time for the families and they need time to come to terms with what has happened.

"Naval personnel family services officers, people from the squadron and padres will be available should the family need them at their homes."

Lt Skidmore, a married father-of-two, and Lt Lewis, who was single, were based at the Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton, Somerset.

The accident is under investigation.