Royal Navy, June 17, 2016 - Junglie Merlin pilot Lieutenant Natalie Grainger has been singled out as a trendsetter and role model for women all over the world.
The 28-year-old who serves with 846 Naval Air Squadron at Yeovilton in Somerset was named one of the country’s top 100 rising stars in the female-only We Are The City awards.
Some 850 women across 20 industries and professions were first whittled down to 200 names on a shortlist by a panel of judges before the public were invited to pick the winners; 28,000 votes were cast by people in 118 countries.
Natalie was selected in the ‘defence’ category alongside female personnel from the Army and RAF and MOD civilians.
Originally from Guernsey, Natalie joined the Navy in February 2008, following in the footsteps of both her parents.
It took nearly four years to complete pilot training, earning her wings at the end of 2011 flying Sea Kings for the Commando Helicopter Force, the wings of the Royal Marines.
After a tour of duty in Afghanistan supporting British and Allied troops on the ground, Natalie returned to the UK to learn to fly the more modern and powerful Merlins which have now replaced the veteran Sea Kings.
Since then, she’s led the commando assault – the crowd-pleasing finale flypast at Yeovilton’s air day, leading a formation of 15 aircraft in front of 40,000 spectators with fires and explosions raging on the ground. This year it falls to her to plan the trademark spectacle.
And away from the cockpit, the junior officer has represented the Royal Navy at football and snowboarding, has just taken up kitesurfing and has signed up for her first triathlon.
“I’m truly humbled to have been not only nominated for a Rising Star award but to win it as well, I’m over the moon that so many people voted for me,” said Natalie who’s ultimate goal in the Fleet Air Arm is to command a Merlin squadron.
“It’s nice to be recognised and to be seen as a role-model to future generations of females in defence – and in particular all the budding future female aviators out there.”
It’s the second award for the young pilot, who’s about to be her squadron’s deputy operations officer, planning training and front-line helicopter missions wherever the squadron deploys.
Last year she received a Commander Joint Helicopter Command Personal Commendation in recognition of her exceptional service.