Feb 10 2012 by Jennifer Buchanan, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
IT’S high five for HMS Gannet.
For newly released government statistics s have revealed that it is the UK’s busiest search and rescue unit – for the fifth year running.
Over the past 12 months, the brave men and women from the Prestwick base, have responded to 298 call outs and rescued 240 people.
This equates to 17 per cent of all military helicopter search and rescue figures from last year.
The longest call out the hard working HMS Gannet team had to attend was a medical evacuation at Wick in Caithness. The incident lasted 11 hours 40 minutes and was a round trip of 465 miles.
The average Gannet call out was 53 miles and lasted one hour 35 minutes.
HMS Gannet’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Debdash Bhattacharya, said: “It is with huge pride that I am able to commend and thank the whole team at HMS Gannet, from aircrews to the engineers, the met office to the administrative staff, and all the other supporting personnel like security staff.
“Once again, maintaining and running this well oiled operation which saves lives at a moment’s notice in often terrible conditions across an area of 98,000 square miles.”
There are 103 people working at the HMS Gannet unit, and three Mark 5 Sea King helicopters are based there.
And all this force combined has contributed to some dramatic rescues in 2011.
In January, a young fisherman’s foot became entangled in a fishing net and was dragged over the side of the boat. The boy was under water for about 10 minutes but was rescued by the tireless crew.
And in May, the helicopter was diverted while on a medical transfer to rescue two people, one with a broken arm from a stranded 50ft yacht.
Lieutenant Commander Bhattacharya added: “Our achievement is enabled by deep engineering expertise and high levels of professionalism and dedication on the part of the aircrew and supporting staff.
“Every person involved with operations at HMS Gannet should be extraordinarily proud.”