The End Of an Era – Closure of the ARCC Kinloss – The Aeronautical Rescue
Co-ordination Centre –
“This Centre exists to assist in the saving of life through the efficient co-ordination of information and assets” Requests from the Military, Police, Health Authorities and Coastguard it is also the home of the Mission Control Centre.”
From the BBC website –
The search and rescue co-ordination centre at Kinloss in Moray is to close, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
A total of 27 RAF posts and 10 civilian posts are said to be affected by the relocation to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham.
The Kinloss centre co-ordinates RAF, Royal Navy and Coastguard search and rescue helicopters, as well as the RAF mountain rescue service. The MoD said there would be no compulsory military redundancies as a result of the closure, and personnel would be assigned to other duties across the UK.
It said the move to Fareham, between Southampton and Portsmouth on the south coast of England, would improve the UK’s search and rescue services.
A UK government spokesman said: “The relocation of the aeronautical rescue co-ordination centre (ARCC) to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham will combine the aeronautical and maritime rescue co-ordination functions, resulting in a better service for those in distress.
“The new UK search and rescue service will use brand-new, faster helicopters to cut average response times and provide a more reliable overall service.”
I heard this today as I drove through the wilds of Rannoch Moor pretty apt really in the snow with the odd blizzard thrown in, that a place dear to my heart was to close. The ARCC at Kinloss in Morayshire has been a huge part of my life since my early days in Mountain Rescue. When I was Team Leader I was regularly awoken in the middle of the night with a call -out from the ARCC . I would be briefed and then off to brief the team. It was an incredible system that was a huge benefit at the Lockerbie Disaster, if we needed it we got it. We got to know the Controllers and really on them throughout the years. There was vast SAR experience behind the team.
I was so lucky to spend my last few years in the military working in the ARCC a place that few knew about. It was how we got our call – outs and information and few know of its importance that goes back for many years. It was in the past based at Pitreavie Castle and Plymouth and then moved to Kinloss. I spent my last few years in the RAF as an Assistant Controller and once I mastered the technology (no easy task) it was the most fulfilling job apart from Mountain Rescue I had ever done. We controlled all the Military SAR assets in UK mainly helicopters and also housed the MCC for satellites in the UK. It was a great job helping the other SAR resources all over the UK and beyond and it taught me so much. It opened my eyes to UK SAR and the big picture. The tasks were ever-changing from moving ill babes, organ transplants, and National emergencies all over UK by helicopter and assisted in all aspects of SAR. What a system and a huge learning curb even for me at the time.
I knew the move would happen and once we lost the military helicopters to the new contract it was the end and an new National Centre will be a huge change. There as always pros and cons and my views are well known by many in SAR. My big worry as with the Single Police Force is the fear of Centralisation and the loss of local knowledge.
It will be good to have all assets, Police, Ambulance and Contract Helicopters under one control. A constant worry to me was the chance of two helicopter assets being tasked to the same incident and maybe having a collision in poor weather, when communications were poor and there were a few high level discussions in the past about this. Now the assets should be centrally controlled and maybe better used nationally?
It is very important to still have local knowledge especially in the mountains a map tells you little and area knowledge is critical. What is the best asset to use, do we need a winch and always alert the local Agency/Mountain Rescue Team in case of a problem on every incident. Helicopters cannot do everything contrary to what some people in authority think? Postcodes do not work to find a location in the mountains?
The ARCC was also there to assist in the Search for military aircraft that go missing mainly but also the civilian ones. In these days of modern technology this still happens and I have over the 40 years involvement been on many such incidents. Looking for a missing aircraft is not easy just look at the epic this year of the missing Malayan aircraft that disappeared. That will be a key skill that may need worked on with the loss of the Military personnel, especially those with an aircraft back ground? These are rare skills and hard to teach as they do not happen that often and time must be spent in training in this field. I have several real incidents that did happen where aircraft went missing and it took us several days to find them and I am more than willing to helo if anyone wishes some advice?
My last day at work in the RAF and the ARCC was moving a very ill baby the length of the UK with awaiting a transplant we worked all night and it all went well. It was down to everyone from the Police, helicopters, ambulance, Coastguards and many others what a job and what satisfaction. We moved the baby for one hospital to another in the dead of night in poor weather and had the organ waiting for the operation . It was great to be a small part of such a great thing.
I wish the new Centre well but a fear that others have is that you cannot run it as a “Call Centre” It still needs experience in all fields of SAR not easy to find? It will be interesting to see how things go and I am sure that all will work hard to ensure the casualty does not suffer? I am sure the SAR experts behind this will have looked at every aspect of this and wish them the best.
Thanks to all who worked and taught me and this without a doubts gave me a unique view of SAR in the UK in all aspects.
Rescues at Sea,Rescues on land,Missing Aircraft,Medical Emergencies.
Thanks to all past and present colleagues! We live in interesting times?
How many lives saved over the years?