VISIT TO NEWQUAY SEARCH & RESCUE UNIT

VISIT TO SEARCH & RESCUE, NEWQUAY

On 29th November a group of 22 Rotarians, partners and friends of Wadebridge Rotary Club visited the Bristow SAR base at Newquay Airport.   This followed a talk to the Club given in March, by Capt. Mark Coupland, the Chief Pilot, about the work of the SAR.   The visit was arranged by club member, Paula Martin.

On arrival, we were greeted by Mark and given an illustrated talk about the duties of the Unit and of the helicopters.   The unit provides a 24 hour search and rescue services for 365 days a year.  The on-duty 24 hour shift of 6 personnel was of ex Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, some of whom had served at Culdrose Air Station.   Mark had 18 years’ service with the Navy, and then a further two tours flying Sea King helicopters from Culdrose on many SAR missions.  

We were informed of the advantages of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter over the older Sea King used by the military before Bristow took over the contract.   Its airspeed is 145 knots, with an endurance of over 4 hours;  it can hold up to 21 persons as required plus the crew of 4; had a comprehensive medical suite; twin hoists; forward-looking infrared and thermal imaging; improved communication facilities and has icing protection, enabling the aircraft to fly at higher levels (which the Sea King couldn’t).   This was illustrated by a trip from west to east north Scotland.   Because the Sea King could not fly over the mountains it took 2 ΒΌ hours flying around the coast to reach the hospital, whereas the S-92, flying direct over the mountains took just over 17 minutes.

We then split into two groups; one to the hanger, where two Sikorsky S-92 helicopters were waiting.   One was ready for immediate action, coupled to a tractor to pull it outside the hanger.   Everyone was amazed at its size.   A tour around the outside identified all the external equipment; lights, TV cameras, hoists, flotation bags and fuel tanks, etc.   The other helicopter was opened for us to enter and view the equipment, including the pilots’ instrument panels.

The crew consists of two pilots and two winchmen/medics; with two engineers remaining at the base.   During the day they have 15 minutes to get airborne after a call for assistance.   At night time, they have up to 45 minutes but in reality it took about 20 minutes.    Dry and wet protective clothing was on hand for land or sea rescues.

The second group had a tour of the unit, with decontamination units, stores, a first aid training room with lifelike dummies and skeletons, and engineering tools.   On a mezzanine floor in the hanger was  leisure equipment including  a drum kit.   Each crew members had a bedroom (like a Premier Inn, according to one of them).   The Ops Room was particularly interesting, with maps, screens and warning notices.  

The unit covers a radius of 200 miles from Newquay but this can be extended by refuelling in the Isles of Scilly.   There is sufficient fuel for up to 200 miles to the incident, a 30 minute hover and then to return to the base or hospital.   Bristow’s have many bases in the UK giving full coverage for rescues.

The visit was particularly interesting for Andrew Davey, the son of club member Nigel.   Recently involved in a serious road accident, he had been airlifted unconscious to hospital in the SAR helicopter (because the Air Ambulance was not available) and wanted to know more about it.

Photo courtesy of HM Coastguard.Report by Mick Goward