1989 – A lucky escape the Sea King Crash at Creag Meaghaidh.

1989 – It was a hard winter we had lots of Call outs and were just getting over from the Lockerbie Disaster. The pace never stopped as we went from call out to call out all over Scotland. I had got a call from our Boss in London Bill Gault a lovely man from Greenock. He was an Navigator on helicopters and we knew him well. He said he was coming up for the weekend with a Boss from MOD. She wanted to look round some of our bothies and met the characters that made MRT. Women were to be allowed to join MRT in the military (well overdue in my mind) she was looking at accommodation. It was a typical dour winters day wet and miserable so at least I would have an easy day as we drove around, showing her the village halls and bothies. Sadly it was an awful day Bill did his best but even he struggled with her attitude. We met Hamish, Elma in Crainlarich and Nan in Roy bridge. We showed her round a few village halls was appalled that we slept on the floor and few had showers or good heating. We were stopping for a coffee in the Roy Bridge Hotel when I got a phone call through the bar there were no mobile phones then. I was told to recall the team as a Sea king had given a Mayday call on Creag Mheaghaidh. The team were in the training in the area the weather was poor and a recall was not easy. Yet we got them back quickly. As I was calling on the radio a Fire Engine on blue lights and two Police cars headed up the glen. On board the helicopter from Lossiemouth were the crew we all knew and some of the Lochaber MRT plus a film crew. We knew them all most were good pals. A Wessex and Sea King Helicopter raced to scene and despite the weather landed on and recover the crew and the passengers. How no one was killed was a miracle and I still had memories of another crash to a Wessex on Ben More a few years previously where Harry the Killin Team Leader was killed and two friends Ian Ramsay another local Policeman were badly injured. It was a busy few hours as we sorted out a crash Guard for the aircraft in the Corrie. It was a busy few hours but we soon got things sorted but I hardly had time to think of what could have been a real tragedy.

Bill took our guest away and we got both teams into I think it was Corpach bothy as most were just of the hill very wet and changing, She walked in to see a few hairy bottoms as the troops changed getting ready to change the team member’s for their night on the hill. We heard that all Lochaber were in the Bar in Fort William having a “Staying alive party” Myself and Bill took our guest over to meet them, they were defiantly having fun. We walked in and Willie Anderson was in fine form and asked me who my girlfriend was. That poor lady I felt for her but Bill Gault saved the day and took her away. In the end the lassies joined the RAF Teams and have brought so much to us over the years,

Looking back at the photos when I saw the aircraft we did crash guard for several days it was amazing that all got out alive. The aircraft was re built and flew again!

30/01/89-01/02/89Creag Meaghaidh202 Sqn Sea King Helicopter crash.  All crew and Lochaber MRT and film crew survived uninjured.  2 day crash guard.  
So Lucky


From one of the crew of the Wessex crew – “we parked our SAR Wessex alongside the crash site, about 30minutes after the crash.  It was the only time I ever saw 60 knots showing on my airspeed indicator, while parked on the ground. Martin Ring was the NCO winchman in our Wessex crew. He spotted the only safe place to land the Wessex by the crashed Sea King great thinking” The Lochaber Team members were taken off on another helicopter I think and our RAF MR were flown in as crash guard this lasted two days.

30/01/89-01/02/89Creag Meaghaidh202 Sqn Sea King Helicopter crash.  All crew and Lochaber MRT and film crew survived uninjured.  2 day crash guard.  

[Above details from MoD Accident Report.]

On the day of the accident, RAF Sea King XZ585 was taking part in joint exercises with Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team (Lochaber MRT). At the end of this exercise, the Sea King was scheduled to transfer a stretcher to the remote First Aid Post in the Coire Adair valley.

Because strong winds had been forecast in the vicinity of Coire Adair, five members of Lochaber MRT left the aircraft beforehand to reduce the load. Then, the Sea King helicopter left for the First Aid Post with the pilot, co-pilot, radar operator, winchman and five remaining passengers. The passenger were: an RAF ground crew member; two members of the MRT, and two members of an ITV film crew who were documenting the operation.1

The Sea King, which was being flown by the co-pilot, made two failed approaches to the landing area. Then, the more experienced pilot took over the controls and modified the approach to take advantage of up-draughting conditions in the area. However, while hovering, a sudden down-draught required the pilot to overshoot the proposed landing area and to continue down the valley.

 At this point, the pilot turned the aircraft and flew back up the valley. However, after turning, the pilot again encountered down-draughting conditions and was forced to apply more power to clear the rising ground.

Without warning, however, the pilot experienced a sudden failure of one of the engines. Consequently, he warned the crew and passengers of an impending heavy landing. The helicopter then landed forcefully at 60knots, but rolled onto its side after hitting the ground.

The crew and all the passengers escaped. Four personnel suffered minor injuries.

The cause of the accident was recorded as a failure of the main rotor gearbox, resulting in a shutdown of the port engine.

Comments – P. Lucas –  The pilot did a magnificent job in saving what he could from a very difficult situation. He encountered a strong downdraft and at the same time, suffered a single engine failure, caused by the main rotor gearbox failing at the time when he needed as much power as he could. They impacted the ground at about 60kts. It could have been so much worse.
A few years ago I met the pilot and his family. They were amazed I knew anything about this crash. They were all incredibly fortunate to have survived. Not least due crew.

S. Atkins – Aside from the crash, which I still recall as being one of coldest jobs imaginable, the visit of the senior officer, was memorable. We originally were staying in Corpach, I think, before moving to Laggan. Corpach was a grim bothy, and I recall the officer and her tiny entourage being utterly appalled that anyone would choose to live like that! I just think that the bothy/RAFMR infrastructure at the time was a few years away from mixed gender service. Glad it didn’t take too long. I remember sitting in a life raft trying to keep warm after the tent got trashed! That was a fun job once we knew everyone was OK.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, SAR, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 1989 – A lucky escape the Sea King Crash at Creag Meaghaidh.

  1. Brian Lyon says:

    Fantastic memories Heavy.


  2. Ken Ross says:

    Knew Bill Gault through the Children’s Panel. We had great chats about the hills.


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