The distinctive Sea King Mk5 – painted red and grey – saves hundreds of lives each year on Search and Rescue thanks to the selfless acts of Navy crews above the stormy waters of the Western Approaches or the mountains of western Scotland. The helicopters operate from two bases – Culdrose near Helston in Cornwall, and HMS Gannet on the edge of Prestwick Airport near Ayr in Scotland – and provide 24-hour cover over the Irish Sea, Bristol Channel and English Channel as well as the Cornish peninsula and the difficult terrain of the Scottish Highlands. Apart from two pilots (equipped with night vision goggles for difficult missions in the dark) each Sea King is crewed by an observer and an aircrewman, who’s also trained in first aid. We are called upon to perform a myriad of rescue missions: sailors in distress, downed aircrew (thankfully very rarely), flood victims, missing or injured climbers, tourists who’ve fallen down cliffs, people involved in road accidents, and medical emergencies.
Sea King Mk5
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771 Naval Air Squadron
For nearly half a century, 771 Naval Air Squadron – known as the Ace of Clubs – has lived up to its motto non nobis solum – ‘not unto us alone’, or in 21st-Century speak, 'for the greater good'. Our Sea Kings are scrambled at least 200 times a year, and the figure is rising.
2013 marks the 60th Anniversary of Royal Navy helicopter Search and Rescue saving lives. On the 31st January, 12 Dragonfly HR1/HR3 helicopters from 705 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Gosport (HMS Siskin) responded to urgent requests for help following extensive flooding in east Anglia nad the Netherlands. Over 840 people were saved, with one pilot accounting for 111 rescues in seven hours of flying, whilst another saved 102; thus was born Royal Navy helicopter Search and Rescue.
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