Image: Sierra 122 crew (from left) Sqn Ldr Rob Hurcomb, Flt Sgt Neil Cooper, Sgt Martin Seward and Flt Lt Mark Pickles after completing their last training mission in Snowdonia (© UK Crown Copyright 2015)
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) marked the end of an era with the final landing of a Sea King rescue helicopter at the RAF Valley base on 1 July. Here's their report.
Squadron Leader Rob Hurcomb (officer commanding, C Flight, 22 Squadron), accompanied by his fellow duty crew members, lands and switches off the rotor blades for the last time as the crews stand down and officially hand over responsibility for search and rescue to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at 09:00 hrs this morning (1 July).
It was an emotional day when the iconic yellow Sea King landed for the last time as an operational search and rescue unit at RAF Valley. With over 10,000 operational call-outs included in its role of honour, the aircraft hovered, took a bow and landed on ‘Spot 1’ on C Flight dispersal as the call came through that they had officially been relieved of their duty and handed the baton over to the MCA.
Families, friends and crew members past and present were all in attendance during the landing. Just as important as the crews themselves, all the civilian engineers who work tirelessly to keep the aircraft in working order were also there on the dispersal and were highly commended for their sterling work in keeping these helicopters in a serviceable condition ready to react to any call-out that C Flight had to respond to.
The Search and Rescue Force Commander, Group Captain Steve Bentley, acknowledged on behalf of everyone present the outstanding achievements and passed on his gratitude on behalf of the Royal Air Force and the hundreds of lives that have been saved by members of C Flight as they conducted their duties in all weathers, day or night, during their operational tenure.
On the same day that RAF Valley handed over SAR responsibility, the MCA’s Caernarfon-based S-92 helicopter, operated by Bristow, carried out its first rescue mission. The call came in after a woman slipped and injured her ankle while walking in the Devil’s Kitchen area of the Snowdonia mountains. She was initially assessed by Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue personnel on the ground, who requested further assistance. The S-92 crew winched the woman onboard and flew her to Ysbyty Gwynedd for treatment.