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771 NAS

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.

Sea King Mk V

771’s helicopters, which feature the squadron’s unofficial Ace of Clubs logo, provide search and rescue cover for the Western Approaches: that’s the Cornish peninsula, the Isles of Scilly and the Atlantic/Channel to a distance of 200 nautical miles.

That can mean mariners in distress (such as, famously, the Fastnet race of 1979 or the MSC Napoli, almost wrecked by Hurricane Kyrill in January 2007) or holidaymakers, walkers, climbers, divers and surfers in difficulty around the Cornish coast (as seen on the TV series Seaside Rescue).

The helicopters are also called upon to ferry patients/injured people to hospital in the West Country.

2013 marked 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 and 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. 

One of our helicopters is at 15 minutes’ notice to fly by day, 45 by night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with a second on the Culdrose tarmac ready to join it in the skies should the emergency demand.


View 771NAS Rescues - July 2012 in a larger map

COMMANDING OFFICER

Scott Armstrong

RANK:
Lieutenant Commander
JOINED:
1991
SPECIALISATION:
Warfare
PREVIOUS UNITS:
848 NAS, CHF
Military experience

Lt Cdr Armstrong RN joined the Royal Navy as a Pilot in 1991. He has had an interesting and broad ranging career: flying a number of aircraft for all three Services in diverse operational and peacetime roles as well as fulfilling various staff and command appointments.

Following a holdover with 664 Army Air Corps Sqn his first tour was with 814 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, as a Sea King Mk 6 Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Pilot. Much of his time was spent on HMS Invincible supporting operations in the Adriatic Sea and the Persian Gulf.

He was then selected to transfer to the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton flying the Sea King Mk4 HC. As a line Pilot and Flight Commander on 845 NAS he conducted numerous deployments to the Balkans in support of the Multi-National Stabilisation Force and exercises in Norway the Mediterranean and around the UK including the very first amphibious assault exercise from HMS Ocean.

Completing this assignment he joined the Central Flying School (CFS) at RAF Shawbury to fly the Squirrel AS350 and graduated as a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI).

He then rejoined the CHF as an Instructor on 848 NAS, which was the Sea King Mk 4 Operational Conversion Unit, where he trained and managed the training of pilots in their final phase of flying training, here he achieved his CFS A2 (above Average Instructor) status.

In 2004 Lt Cdr Armstrong diversified further with an appointment to 7 Sqn RAF based at RAF Odiham flying the Chinook Mk 2. This challenging tour took him to various operational theatres.

Out of the cockpit he returned to RNAS Yeovilton in a Staff role as the Command Training Officer in the CHF Headquarters, responsible for forming the policy and implementing the delivery of training across the whole of the CHF.

Following this he took up the position of MCT Air Group Commander, also based at RNAS Yeovilton.

In 2011 was assigned to Whale Island, Portsmouth, to work for the Commodore Naval Personnel as a Career Manager overseeing the careers of 350 CHF, Fast Jet and Air Traffic Control Officers.

Scott is married to a Photographer and they have a daughter and an ageing black Labrador called Millie.


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OPERATIONS

Search and Rescue

CURRENT STATUS: active
image
MISSION SUMMARY

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm also provide Search and Rescue cover to large sections of the United Kingdom coastline, 24 hours a day and 365 days per year, typically at 15 minutes notice. Based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall and HMS Gannet, Prestwick, in Scotland, Royal Navy helicopters are constantly available and fly missions that are as varied as they are far-reaching.

ABOUT THE UNIT

KEY STATISTICS


SAR Call-Outs 2012

251

Persons Assisted

235

TAKE A LOOK

Image Gallery

UNITS IN TIME


771 Naval Air Squadron HISTORY

TRACK THE HISTORY OF SHIPS NAMED 771 Naval Air Squadron
  • World War II

    771 Naval Air Squadron traces its history back to the eve of World War 2 when it was formed at HMS Daedalus as a ‘fleet requirement unit’, responsible for evaluating aircraft, at HMS Daedalus. Among the early aircraft on the 771 inventory was the Hoverfly, the first helicopter in Royal Navy service, in 1945.

  • Signature Manoevres

    After disbanding in 1955, the squadron re-formed in Portland in 1961 as a trials unit for Whirlwinds and Wasps, practising many of the signature manoeuvres of search and rescue in doing so: the free diver drop, hi-line transfers and in-flight refuelling.

  • Search and Rescue

    When the Whirlwind HAR3 entered service, the squadron became a dedicated search and rescue unit. It relocated to Culdrose 1974, swapped the Whirlwind first for the Wessex, then the Sea King in 1988. 771’s unofficial logo – the Ace of Clubs – is probably more famous than its official badge (three hornets above the waves) and is the last reminder of the days when RN aircraft were adorned with such insignia (806 NAS, for example, were the Ace of Diamonds).

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