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Cornwall thanks Sea King search and rescue helicopters

Credit: Petty Officer Paul A'Barrow/MoD

Cornwall's eyes were drawn upwards this morning as five Sea King helicopters based a Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose flew in formation.

The Search and Rescue Squadron carried out the unusual formation to celebrate its 76th year, and to thank the county for its continued support.

The five four-man crews were extremely touched by the number of people who made the effort to come out and give them a wave during their 150 mile tour of the coast.

Credit: Petty Officer Paul A'Barrow/MoD

The Squadron is capable to operating within a 200 nautical mile radius of RNAS 24 hours a day, and carries out more than 200 rescues a year.

Their tasks include plucking sailors from sinking ships, airlifting casualties to hospital and assisting police in carrying out aerial searches.

Every year they save many lives in some of the most hazardous conditions imaginable, often putting their own lives at risk.

This year marks the Squadron’s last birthday before it hands over its search and rescue duties at the end of the year.

771 Squadron flew around the coast from Helston to Land's End, up to Newquay and over Truro, before flying back to the Lizard via Falmouth.

Credit: Petty Officer Paul A'Barrow/MoD

Their assistance to mariners in distress has gained them awards and bravery medals, for rescues including the Fastnet race of 1979, the Boscastle Floods of 2004, the MSC Napoli in January 2007 and more recently aiding the crews of the stricken ‘Panamera’ and ‘La Sillon’.

“It was very humbling to see the level of public support. We were not expecting such high numbers of people coming out to give us a wave.

Some people had even put messages on the beach or even at their school!

On behalf of the whole of the Squadron, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took the trouble to come and see us fly past.

– Lieutenant Commander Richard Calhaem, Commanding Officer of 771 Naval Air Squadron
Credit: Petty Officer Paul A'Barrow/MoD

VAT refunds for air ambulances & rescue helicopters

Search and rescue helicopter based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall Credit: ITV News

As part of the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor is to announce VAT refunds for Search and Rescue and Air Ambulance charities alongside £7.5 million extra support for air ambulances.

The VAT refunds will be worth £25 million over 5 years.

It is in response to the service the UK’s Search and Rescue and Air Ambulance charities provide, volunteering their time and expertise to support to emergency services.

At the moment, most Search and Rescue and Air Ambulance charities cannot claim VAT back on their search and rescue activities but this means they will all be able to apply for VAT refunds for them as of 1 April 2015.


  1. Francesca Carpenter

Region's search and rescue services to be sold off

There has been a major shake-up of the search and rescue services. Despite vigorous campaigns, operations will move out of Portland, Chivenor and Culdrose to a new base at Newquay Airport.

The service will be run by a private company, Bristow, which is based in the US. It will mean that from 2015, 22 new helicopters will operate from ten locations around the UK. The Dorset coast will be covered by a base at Leigh-on-Solent.

  1. West Country (E)

Yeovil's MP congratulates AgustaWestland

David Laws, MP for Yeovil, has today congratulated AgustaWestland on securing an important role in the delivery of a new contract which will secure jobs for the company, including at its Yeovil base.

The contract, details of which were confirmed today by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, will see the company provide helicopters, equipment and technical support as part of a 10 year Search & Rescue delivery agreement.

The new agreement confirms that AgustaWestland will deliver 11 of its new generation AW189 helicopters as part of future Search and Rescue operations.

The AW189 model uses the most advanced technology and will replace Westland’s own Sea King model in existing Search and Rescue services.

This is another important order for AgustaWestland, and is the latest in a series of impressive successes for the company in providing cutting-edge aerospace technology.

Delivering Search and Rescue capability is a vitally important public service, and it is a testament to the high quality of AgustaWestland’s work that the company has been picked to deliver these services.

I would like to congratulate all the staff at AgustaWestland for their work in securing this important service.

– David Laws MP, Lib Dem, Yeovil

West Cornwall MP's reaction to Search & Rescue move

Commenting on today’s announcement by the Transport Secretary that Search and Rescue services will move from RNAS Culdrose to Newquay Airport by 2017, the West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, said:

This is, of course, a bitter disappointment to those who have admired and supported the excellent and heroic service which the 771 Squadron has provided in the West for many decades.

It is regrettable that the service will be moving to Newquay. I have concerns that both the operational capacity of Culdrose and its capacity to attend many incidents in the far reaches of the Western Approaches – often 200 to 250 miles west of the Isles of Scilly – will not receive the same response from Newquay.

Although the S92 is a superior air frame to the Sea King, Culdrose has a clear locational advantage over Newquay in terms of its access to the many and challenging maritime incidents that happen in the far west.

This news does not in any way undermine the future of RNAS Culdrose itself as the naval air station is the fulcrum of the military Merlin air arm which is crucial for the future of Royal Naval operations.

– Andrew George MP, Lib Dem, St Ives


Newquay's MP welcomes Search and Rescue move

This is a real vote of confidence in Newquay airport and the move of Search & Rescue from RNAS Culdrose will see significant investment in new facilities, new equipment and new jobs in Newquay and is welcome.

As the Search & Rescue operation goes through this significant change I want to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force in having providing this vital life-saving service around our Island and look I forward to welcoming Bristow to Newquay.

– Stephen Gilbert MP, Lib Dem, St Austell & Newquay
  1. National

New rescue helicopters 'will reach larger area of UK'

The Department for Transport has said that under the new contract helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK Search and Rescue region within an hour of take-off than is currently possible.

An RAF Sea King helicopter that will no longer be used under the new contract. Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

It added that, based on historic incident data, it is estimated there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20 percent (from 23 to 19 minutes).

Presently, approximately 70 percent of high and very high-risk areas within the UK SAR region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85 percent of the same area would be reached within this time frame.

New base for SAR helicopters at Newquay

Under the new contract, 22 state-of-the-art helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK.

Ten Sikorsky S92s will be based, two per site, at Stornoway and Sumburgh in Scotland, and at new bases at airports in Newquay in Cornwall, Caernarfon in Wales and Humberside.

Ten AgustaWestland AW189s will operate, two per site, from Lee on Solent and a new hangar at Prestwick Airport, and new bases which will be established at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports

All bases will be operational 24 hours a day.

The new contract will be managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in the same way as the existing contract that operates the Coastguard helicopter bases on the south coast and on the Western and Shetland Isles.

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