RNAS Culdrose hands search and rescue to Bristow Helicopters
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.
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".
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.
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."
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.