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Lt Chris Wittington, Cpl Justin Morgan RM, Lt Cdr Richard Full, Lt Cdr Martin Sheppard

Culdrose SAR Helicopter to Carry Olympic Flame

Published: 14 May 2012

Olympic Flame arrives into Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall on 18 May.
771 Naval Air Squadron to carry the flame in a Sea King Helicopter on 19 May.
First time a ‘live flame’ is carried as a passenger

The Royal Navy is proud to announce that its Search and Rescue Squadron has been selected by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to transfer the Olympic Flame to Land’s End for the start of the UK Torch Relay, presented by Coke, Lloyds TSB and Samsung.

On the evening of Friday 18th May, the Olympic Flame will arrive at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose onboard a British Airways, gold-liveried aircraft from Athens. After an overnight stay at the Air Station, the Flame will be flown to Land’s End by 771 Naval Air Squadron in a Sea King helicopter that has been used for many lifesaving missions across the South West. On landing, one the four aircrew will jump out of the aircraft and take the Olympic Flame to the start of the London 2012 Torch Relay, so that its momentous journey across the UK can begin. The Olympic Flame will then travel 8,000 miles across the UK to within 10 miles of 95% of the population. 8,000 Torchbearers will carry the Olympic Flame for approximately 300 metres each, passing the Olympic Flame from torch to torch until it reaches the Olympic Stadium on the eve of 27 July.

On call 24 hours a day, every day of the year, 771 Squadron provides Search and Rescue cover across the South West. Squadron members fly across the Cornish Coastline in their red and grey Sea King helicopters on daring rescue missions, saving the lives of many in some of the most hazardous conditions imaginable, often putting their own lives at risk. At 15 minutes notice by day and 45 minutes by night (although they usually get airborne in less), the Squadron is capable of operating within a 200 nautical mile radius of Culdrose. They carry out over 200 rescues a year, ranging from long range medical evacuation from ships at sea, assistance to vessels in distress, to the safe recovery of stranded cliff fallers, swimmers, divers and surfers. 771 Squadron also helps with hospital-to-hospital transfers, road traffic accidents and assisting the police with aerial searches for missing people, however this is the first time it has carried a live flame as a passenger.

As the Olympic Flame is classified as a symbolic flame it is permitted to be carried on board an aircraft following special authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority. The Flame will travel in a ceremonial lantern that is secured in a specially designed cradle which is, in turn, firmly fixed to its seat on the helicopter using a secure holding device. The lantern has been designed so the Olympic Flame can burn safely for the duration of the journey.

The very proud crew will be made up of:

Lieutenant Commander Martin Shepherd, (Pilot and Commanding Officer of 771 Naval Air Squadron)Lieutenant Chris Whittington (Pilot)Lieutenant Commander Richard Full (Observer)Corporal Justin Morgan (Aircrewman)

Lieutenant Commander Richard Full has been chosen as the Sailor who will be carrying the lantern to the start of the Torch Relay. Richard said: “As an avid sportsman and a firm believer in the ethos of the Olympic Games, I am extremely proud and honoured to be invited to carry the Olympic Flame on its short journey from one of our Search and Rescuer aircraft to the starting point for London 2012. This is most definitely a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity as I doubt whether I, or many of my fellow West Country men and women will see the Olympic Flame pass through their towns and villages again during their lifetimes”.

Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose is home to most of the Navy’s Merlin and Sea King helicopter Squadrons. Personnel at the Air Station are extremely proud that their base has been chosen to not only receive the Olympic Flame, but to also help it on its onward journey.

Captain William Entwisle, Commanding Officer of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, said: “We are honoured to be able to help the Olympic Flame at the start of its very special journey around the United Kingdom. Our Personnel, be they part of the Search and Rescue Squadron who will be giving the Olympic Flame a ‘lift’, those training for frontline operations or even those who are currently supporting the Royal Navy across the globe, are very proud that our Air Station has been chosen to play a part in the build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games. We are delighted to be playing such an important role in this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Seb Coe, Chair of LOCOG, said: “It is a fitting tribute to the hard work and bravery of the Search and Rescue Squadron at RNAS Culdrose that they have been chosen to carry the Olympic Flame to Land’s End for the start of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. The arrival by Sea King helicopter will be the first of many alternative modes of transport which will be used to carry the Flame as it makes its 70 day journey around the UK.”


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