Cornwall Looks To The Skies To Wish Iconic Squadron A ‘Happy Birthday’
The people of Cornwall came out in their thousands this morning to wish 771 Naval Air Squadron a ‘Happy 76th Birthday’.
The eyes ofCornwalllooked upwards between 10:30 – 12:00 as five Sea King helicopters from the Search and Rescue Squadron, based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, flew in formation around the west coast ofCornwall. The sixth aircraft due to fly was scrambled to two consecutive rescue missions just before the formation group got airborne.
771 Squadron decided to celebrate its 76th year, by flying around the coast from Helston to Land's End, up to Newquay and over Truro, before flying back to the Lizard viaFalmouth. One of the main reasons for organising the event was to say thank you to the people ofCornwall for their continued support over the years. This year is the Squadron’s last birthday before it hands over its search and rescue duties at the end of the year.
The five four-man crews were extremely touched by the number of people who made the effort to come out and give them a wave during their 150 mile tour of the coast. Lieutenant Commander Richard Calhaem, Commanding Officer of 771 Naval Air Squadron said: “It was very humbling to see the level of public support. We were not expecting such high numbers of people coming out to give us a wave. Some people had even put messages on the beach or even at their school! On behalf of the whole of the Squadron, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took the trouble to come and see us fly past.”
“I wish that we could have covered the whole of Cornwall, but we still have the search and rescue role for another seven months and there will be plenty more opportunities for the public to see us before we hand over our duties. In particular, at this year’s Culdrose Air Day in July, we are planning to open up our hangar and put on a special exhibition. We will also be present at many RNLI events around theCornishCoastthroughout the summer.”
Over the years, 771 Naval Air Squadron has lived up to its motto ‘non nobis solum - not unto us alone’. At 15 minutes notice by day and 45 minutes by night, the Squadron is capable of operating within a 200 nautical mile radius of RNAS Culdrose. They carry out over 200 rescues a year, ranging from plucking sailors from sinking ships, to airlifting casualties of road traffic accidents to hospital and assisting the police in carrying out aerial searches for missing people.
Every year they save many lives in some of the most hazardous conditions imaginable, often putting their own lives at risk. Their assistance to mariners in distress has gained them awards and bravery medals, for rescues including the Fastnet race of 1979, the Boscastle Floods of 2004, the MSC Napoli in January 2007 and more recently aiding the crews of the stricken ‘Panamera’ and ‘La Sillon’.
A team of busy engineers work hard to keep the aging Sea King helicopters ready to fly when the emergency demands, one available for tasking and a second on the Culdrose tarmac ready to join it in the skies if necessary. It is unusual for all of the Squadron’s aircraft to fly together as Lieutenant Commander Calhaem explained: “To get six aircraft in the air at once was a mammoth task for the whole Squadron. The engineers who have worked around the clock to make the aircraft serviceable especially deserve praise.”
771 Naval Air Squadron will continue in their Search and Rescue Role until December 31st 2015.