My first memory of the. Seaking was getting dropped of on Ben a Bhuird for winter climbing in the late 70’s. After being so used to the Wessex it was so big and we could get many more on the aircraft for a Rescue. Many of the crews were converted from the Wessex.
It took a while to get used to the down wash of a bigger aircraft and we learned after getting dropped of on tight ridges like An Teallach, Liathach and Aonach Eagach. We soon got used to it and did so many hours on them they became trusted friends.
When night vision Goggles came in we learned the hard way. Scary drop offs in the dark in the Cairngorms and all over Scotland. Learning new skills and teaching the new team members how to stay safe.
As Team Leader you were often up front with the pilot on headphones. At time’s assisting the crew and getting the latest update from our control on the incident. The troops would be in the back on the longer trips oblivious to changing incidents. Messages to them were passed by paper! Sometimes it was better to not say till we landed.
We did many flights from Kinloss picked up at 15 minutes notice to a mountain or Island an hours flying away. Often arriving ahead of the local team and being dropped in with the winch man to the casualty.
The respect for the crews was such that many became such good friends over the years. We learned so much together and had huge trust in their professionalism.
When the Navy Sea Kings joined us in the SAR role we gained great respect for them. At Leuchars we trained a lot with The Sea Kings at Gannet at Prestwick.
Flights to Aircraft crashes in Harris and the Mull of Kintyre were incredible in the helicopters . Flying low and fast into a crash site will be memories that will remain with me for life.
The crews always looked after us and the civilian teams often coming back to save us long walk outs. Flying in wild conditions and always being as safe as they could.
We had an epic at Loch Etcheachan in the Cairngorms where we had to get out on the frozen Loch and line up to show the Sea King the way out. This occurred After dropping us off in a storm in a huge search for two missing climbers. We were all lucky that day !
We had a few near misses like at Creag Megadaidh where the aircraft crashed with a lot of Lochaber’s Mountain Rescue Team on Board that was a worrying period. All walked away.
I miss – the early morning flights across a snow covered Scotland.
I miss the drop off’s after a big climb when a Sea King out training would offer us a lift home. We were the envy of many.
I miss the Sea king arriving and taking our casualties away saving us hours of dangerous work especially at night. Arriving in the dark like a space ship on there Night Vision gear.
I miss – As the aircraft was getting older the oil leaks on the fuselage and the odd crash guard in wild places with the Sea kings.
I miss – the wild winches onto the hill that like the flying always scared me and the crews knew this.
I miss – the banter of the crews with us yet it great to see many are still flying with the new SAR contract.
I miss my dog Teallach jumping on board on a rescue and immediately getting under a seat and falling asleep. Many a new winch man got a fright when this big Alsatian jumped on board! He could hear the helicopter before us on the hill and knew maybe after a hard rescue we would get a lift home.
These were Great days great memories never to be forgotten. Especially the lovely Yellow colour of the Sea King in a winters day arriving on scene with more troops or picking up the casualties.
The odd night stops with the crew in Hotels after a Rescue due to weather. Getting accommodation for the crew and us and a dog was always amusing. Visits to Hoy, St Kilda and many Islands. Getting fish from the fishermen as a thank you.
The helicopters crews like the SAR crews today are great folk. Thank you all I always knew if we had a problem in the Mountains you would be there for us and rarely let us down. As we get older we look back and marvel at their skills.
Thanks to all!
What’s your memories ?