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A Chinook pilot who is to be awarded a prestigious service medal described today how he landed his helicopter to pick up five casualties despite the aircraft having been damaged by gunfire.
Flight Lieutenant Tim Pollard is to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his actions in Sangin, Afghanistan, last December.
The 28-year-old from Alton, Hampshire, had been scrambled to fly the Chinook to retrieve the five casualties who had been hit by an explosion caused by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle.
But as the aircraft flew to the scene, it was hit by gunfire which damaged the rotor brake cylinder, spraying flammable hydraulic fluid over Ft Lt Pollard.
Despite the risk of himself and the cockpit going up in flames, he decided to land the Chinook to pick up the injured personnel.
The Chinook then returned to base escorted by US Black Hawk helicopters.
Ft Lt Pollard, who joined the RAF in 2003 and who has been flying Chinooks for four years, said that the incident was "part of the course'' of flying in the area.
He said: ``I wouldn't say I was frightened, you just concentrate on getting the guys back to medical care.
"Afterwards you sit down and have a few thoughts about it but when it is happening the focus is on getting the guys off the ground.
"This sort of thing happens, you learn to deal with that side of things, but I definitely wasn't nervous about going back out again afterwards.''
On receiving the DFC, he added:
"I feel very honoured and humble but this is also recognition of what the crew did that day and what the crews and engineers at the back of the aircraft do on a daily basis.
"In my book, that day the bravest guys were those running with stretchers to the aircraft when rounds were coming down all around them, that's amazing bravery.''