I was down in Ayr the other day and saw the wonderful Sea King from Gannet (Prestwick Sea King) flying over the sea with a backdrop of the Isle of Arran. Arran is a special place to me and Ayr is my home town and this is some place for my early memories on the these hills. It was amazed how emotional I felt seeing the Sea King maybe for the last time flying above the town that means so much to me and these hills of Arran. As a member of the RAF Mountain Rescue for many years I was very privileged to work with the crews in the early days of the Royal NavalSea King in the mid 80’s at RAF Leuchars and even went down a few times as the RAF Team Leader to give some advice for the oncoming winter.
These were busy times in SAR the late 80’s and it was a bit of work involved getting used to this different aircraft by Mountain Rescue Teams and as a military team we got asked to help.. We soon sorted things out and had a few adventures we did some extra training with each other. I hope this helped especially getting the crew some personal gear for the hills especially in winter! It is hard to believe that at this time crews flew in flying boots and basic aircrew gear. At times it was a hard process as there was some inter service rivalry hard to believe but true, in the end it did work out and we sorted out all the problems. Over the years what an effect the Royal Navy Sea Kings have had in SAR, what a great asset and have added an extra dimension to SAR over the years. Scotland was never an easy place to work and how well the crews adapted to the changes in environment and change of task. I was also lucky to have had even more contact when I worked in the ARCC (Aeronautical Rescue Co Ordination Centre) The Royal Navy SAR crews were great all over the UK and I had a great liaison with the crews they have some real characters, many I now class as friends. Many of their call –outs were in the mountains but they also covered the remote Islands great tales of adventure in these SAR incidents so many stories and tales.
The Royal Navy Sea Kings leave Scotland Prestwick I think on the 31 Dec 2015 it will be a sad day for many and you cannot stand in the way of progress but what a bunch of people and a privilege to work with the Senior Service. I hope to do a piece in the blog to say farewell and I am looking for pictures of the Royal Navy Sea King in action any takers? It was a great joy to me to see the Sea King Flying on the Arran hills it meant so much to me and I will never forget some of the call outs with the crews.
There were a few epics in Arrochar and the low level flight in bad weather to Barra for a plan crash was another of these and many more but I will shake the old memory to try and add to this when they leave in January next year, I will miss them. Great people, great professionals they taught me a lot.
Safe flying and take care!
HMS Gannet is a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm establishment based at RNAS Prestwick in Scotland that also hosts Gannet SAR Flight. It operates two from three Sea Kings Mk5 helicopters in the military and civilian SAR role across Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. The crews cover an area from Ben Nevis in the north, the Isle Of Man and the Lake District to the south, east to Edinburgh, the Firth Of Forth and the Borders, west to Northern Ireland and extends 200 miles (320 km) west of Ireland over the north Atlantic, giving an operational area of approx. 98,000 square miles.