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Royal Navy search and rescue helicopter crews say goodbye to Scotland

Crews based at HMS Gannet have carried out thousands of rescues over the last 44 years.

Edinburgh Castle: HMS Gannet Sea Kings over Edinburgh. <strong>Chris Brand</strong>
Edinburgh Castle: HMS Gannet Sea Kings over Edinburgh. Chris Brand

The Royal Navy’s last search and rescue helicopter crews are flying across Scotland to mark the end of decades of service.

Crews based at HMS Gannet have carried out thousands of rescues over the last 44 years, including saving 12 people trapped on a bus caught up in flooding last month.

On January 1, military search and rescue came to an end north of the border when the Royal Navy handed responsibility to civilian firm Bristow.

HMS Gannet helicopters visited Prestwick, Glasgow, Garelochhead, Tyndrum, Lochaber, Oban, Inverlochlarig, Stirling, Edinburgh and Ayr on Thursday before ending the trip with a visit to Troon at 2.30pm.

They were accompanied by Sea King MK4 Commando aircraft.

Earlier this week, HMS Gannet commanding officer lieutenant commander Charlie Fuller said: “Over the years HMS Gannet has enjoyed immense support from communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

“The flypast is our chance to say farewell and hopefully people will come out to wave goodbye too.”

HMS Gannet was the busiest search and rescue flight in the UK last year, with more than 300 rescues on its books.

Prestwick crews broke the record for the most operations in a single year when they carried out 447 rescues in 2009.

The crew’s last job – and its 313th of the year – was assisting police during an operation in Invergarry.

More than 70 years of military search and rescue came to an end in the north of Scotland when the last of Moray’s “budgie yellow” Sea King helicopter fleet left Lossiemouth in April 2015.

The choppers, which were on hand during disasters including Piper Alpha and the Lockerbie bombing, have been replaced by modern Sikorsky S92s.

At the time, long-serving RAF Mountain Rescue Team member David Whalley described the Sea Kings were an “incredible” asset to Scotland’s civilian rescue services.


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