Cornwall

RNAS Culdrose hands search and rescue to Bristow Helicopters

RNAS Culdrose Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption Helicopter crews from 771 Squadron say farewell to Cornwall

A Cornwall-based Navy air rescue team has handed over search and rescue operations to a private company.

Crews from 771 squadron have carried out more than 40 years of rescue operations from RNAS Culdrose near Helston, saving thousands of lives.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency contractor Bristow Helicopters will run the service from Newquay airport.

The US-based company won a 10-year, £1.6bn contract to run rescue services around the UK.


SAR base changes

  • Culdrose - SAR operation moves to Newquay
  • Wattisham - moves to Manston
  • Valley - moves to Caernarfon
  • Boulmer - SAR operation ending
  • Portland - Closing
  • Lee-on-the-Solent - not moving
  • Chivenor - moves to St Athan
  • Leconfield - moves to Humberside
  • Lossiemouth - moves to Inverness
  • Prestwick - not moving

The red and grey Sea Kings of 771 Squadron will be replaced by Bristow's new Agusta Westland and Sikorsky helicopters.

Twenty two helicopters will operate 24 hours-a-day from 10 locations and the government says the service "will be able reach a larger area of the UK search and rescue region within one hour".

Image copyright Chris Yacoubian
Image caption The red and grey Sea Kings of RNAS Culdrose will be replaced by Bristow's new Agusta Westland and Sikorsky helicopters

In 2004, as the Cornish village of Boscastle was overwhelmed by flooding, crews from 771 spent hours airlifting people to safety from rooftops.

In the 1985 Fastnet yacht race, a team from 771 helped saved Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon and 19 others from the yacht Drum after it overturned off Falmouth.

Image caption RNAS Culdrose helicopters spent hours rescuing people from flooding in Boscastle in 2004

Some of the crew will join Merlin helicopter squadrons at Culdrose training crews for the navy's new aircraft carriers while others have transferred to Bristow.

Pilot Lt Andy Watts said: "We as individuals get a huge amount from the job, it teaches you about making life and death decisions on the fly and weighing up all the balances and you don't get that on other flying that you do."

Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption Crews from 771 Squadron hand over to the Bristow Helicopters team at RNAS Culdrose

Mark Coupland, Bristow Helicopter's chief pilot at Newquay, said: "We are keen to acknowledge the past and where a lot of the new coastguard team have come from. Many of the Newquay team have been trained by the Royal Navy and we are massively proud of the lives that 771 has saved over the years."

Salcombe RNLI tweeted: "Thank you @RoyalNavy Rescue 193, 771 Squadron from RNAS Culdrose for exceptional service for over 40 years #proud."

Elsewhere in the south west region, operations at Royal Marine Barracks (RMB) Chivenor relocated to St Athan in Wales in 2015.

Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption Crews from 771 squadron have carried out more than 40 years of rescue operations from RNAS Culdrose

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites