A civilian helicopter company has replaced the long standing RAF Search and Rescue operation that has served the Dales Rescue Teams for over 55 years.
The yellow RAF Sea Kings are being replaced by the red and white helicopters of Bristows, the company that won the government contract
The Sea Kings will be a hard act to follow but we are glad to hear that the Bristow’s state of the art helicopters will be faster and more flexible.Phill Nelson from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue team
Phill Nelson from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue team (UWFRA) that includes Nidderdale and the Harrogate area in its patch said: “It was a very sad day and the end of an era,the team would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the pilots and crew of these amazing machines for their invaluable support over all these years.
“When you are involved in a serious incident out on the fells there can be no more welcoming sight than the red jackets of the Mountain Rescue team followed if necessary by the sound and sight of an arriving RAF Sea King helicopter.”
The new organisation has now started operations initially in the North East and Northern Scotland and it will take two years for the RAF and Royal Navy service to be completely phased out across the country.
Bristows will be working to exactly the same response times and with the same composition as the RAF with two pilots a winch operator and a winchman who is also a paramedic.
The helicopter base will move from RAF Leconfield to Humberside Airport.
Phill added: We had such a great rapport with the RAF crews and as such we are more than pleased to learn that six of the nine pilots based at Humberside Airport are ex military as are nine of the 10 rear crew.
“The Sea Kings will be a hard act to follow but we are glad to hear that the Bristow’s state of the art helicopters will be faster and more flexible.
“We are informed that the downdraft from the helicopters is more powerful than the Sea Kings which means we will have to be much more careful and will need to wear goggles and ear protectors’’
Prince William is the National Mountain Rescue Service Royal Patron and served as a RAF Search and Rescue pilot in North Wales for three years.
He is now to become a pilot with the Air Ambulance Service across the East of England
The Dales will in fact still see the yellow helicopter of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance service who has also supported the Mountain Rescue teams since its formation 15 years ago.
For over 60 years the U.W.F.R.A. has been rescuing people and animals from the caves and fells around Wharfedale, Nidderdale, Littondale and Mid-Airedale.
The majority of its work involves attending incidents involving people or animals in difficulty in caves, potholes, mineshafts, on fells, crags or anywhere not accessible to the normal Emergency Services.
The team is made up of over 80 well trained and well equipped volunteer cavers, climbers and mountaineers and is on call 365 days a year.