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HMS Gannet Search and Rescue unit finishes operations

HMS Gannet Search and Rescue unit finishes operations
6 January 2016
Scottish-based Royal Navy Search and Rescue Flight, HMS Gannet, has finished its lifesaving mission after over 40 years of operations from Prestwick Airport.

At 9am on January 1st, the baton was passed to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency contractor Bristow Helicopters, who will now be responsible for delivering search and rescue coverage across Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. 

HMS Gannet has been on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since 1971, saving lives in some of the most hazardous conditions imaginable. 

Speaking at the handover, Commanding Officer of HMS Gannet, Lieutenant Commander Charlie Fuller, said:  “Every day has been a privilege. 

The crews, supporting engineers and staff of HMS Gannet have all contributed to the unit’s success and I thank them for their hard work and bravery.

Lieutenant Commander Charlie Fuller

“It has been a great honour to command a unit that has helped save lives and which has made such an impact throughout Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. 

“We have consistently been one of the busiest Search and Rescue (SAR) units in the whole of the UK and the holder of the record number of SAR jobs in a year ever. 

“We have enjoyed immense support from the local communities of Ayrshire as well as the Highlands and Isles that make up our ‘patch’. 

“The crews, supporting engineers and staff of HMS Gannet have all contributed to the unit’s success and I thank them for their hard work and bravery.”

At 15 minutes notice by day and 45 minutes by night, HMS Gannet’s area covered some 98,000 square Nautical miles. 

It was one of the largest search areas within the UK, stretching from Ben Nevis in the north, south to the Isle of Man and Lake District, east to Edinburgh and the Borders, west to Northern Ireland and even a further 200 miles west of Ireland. 

The massive areas meant the crews were called to deal with anything from a sinking vessel to a fallen climber with everything in between. 

HMS Gannet SAR flight was the busiest unit in the UK from 2005 to 2010, with a record breaking 447 rescues conducted in 2009. 

2015, Gannet’s final year in Search and Rescue, saw the crews complete over 300 rescues, making it the busiest in the UK once again. 

Their assistance to the public in distress gained them numerous awards for bravery, with the pilots and rescue crews being involved in major operations such as the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 and also Lockerbie that same year. 

Most recently Gannet has been called to Cumbria to help rescue efforts during Storm Desmond. 

Over the last few weeks HMS Gannet personnel have been ensuring a smooth handover to the Bristow Helicopter team at Prestwick, many of whom are ex-military pilots previously based with the Squadron. 

Lieutenant Commander Fuller said:  “We have done our best to ensure the Bristow crews have the best start possible.  In turn, their crews, who are mostly ex-military SAR crew, have paid us the tremendous honour of mounting our ship’s crest in their crew room as recognition of our time and their heritage.”

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