Flight hits the 5,000 search and rescue milestone

  • 22 September 2012
  • aser

RAF Sea King

One of RMB Chivenor's search and rescue crews: Sqn Ldr Hugh Pierce, Flt Sgt Rach Robinson, Master Aircrew Andy Batchelor, and Flt Lt John Rowe


A Westcountry-based search and rescue flight has carried out its 5,000th rescue since receiving its two Sea King helicopters 15 years ago.

The milestone call-out for the Search and Rescue team based at RMB Chivenor was achieved on a busy day last week when they were called to five incidents.

The duty crew, which always consists of four, was called out to South Wales on Tuesday morning to rescue a father and son who had been cut off by the tide at Three Cliffs Bay.

Flight Sergeant Rachael Robinson, who was the winch operator for the flight, said it was a fairly simple rescue but it was obvious the father, who had been supporting his son, was exhausted.

She said: "It was really important to get them both out of the water as quickly as possible."

The base's two Sea King helicopters arrived at RMB Chivenor in May 1997 and are officially "A" Flight of 22 Squadron.

Their first call-out was to a diabetic sailor who was on a vessel west of Ireland and 200 miles from Chivenor, but they were later stood down.

Squadron Leader Adam Thompson said a job of that distance requires a lot of preparation. "When going that many miles we have to strip down the vehicle to make it as light as possible and then we have to stop in Cork to refuel.

"We might get called out to that kind of distance once or twice a year."

The helicopters' 1,000th job was on January 2, 2000, when a crew were called out to a heart attack victim in the Brecon Beacons. Once the casualty had been found the crew worked with a mountain rescue team before transporting him to Cardiff.

Job number 2,000 occurred on March 30, 2003, when the crew was called to a French fishing trawler that was taking on water 60 miles west of Chivenor. The crew flew out and used a water pump to remove the water and stopped the vessel sinking.

It wasn't until 2006 that call-out 3,000 happened. On May 10 a crew was called out to track down a missing armed man who was believed to be around Combe Martin.

Despite using the aircraft's infra-red system the man was not found and the search and rescue team were stood down.

Sqn Ldr Thompson, who took up the top role within the squadron a year ago, said: "It happens quite often that our calls come to nothing, but that is just how it goes."

In March 2009 a crew was called out to a person stuck on a cliff near Cardiff marking their 4,000th rescue. A fire rescue team were also at the scene. The casualty was rescued and taken to hospital.

Sqn Ldr Thompson added: "It is so important that we work with other emergency services and that they utilise us.

The 56 crew members and engineers who form the squadron work 24-hour shifts and during the daytime have a readiness of 15 minutes which decreases to 45 minutes at night. The crew trains up to four hours a day but that figure can be reduced depending on how many call-outs they have.

Having five jobs in one day means they can be flying up to nine hours.


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