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Aircrew ready for the final flight
Ground crew giving the signal to engage rotors for the final time
All three aircraft take off from RNAS Culdrose for the last time
The final flight passed their hometown of Helston, Cornwall.

SAR Sea Kings fly away for the last time

Published: 13 Apr 2016

Yesterday, Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose waved goodbye to its iconic Search and Rescue Sea King helicopters for the last time.

During the late morning, the final three aircraft flew from the Helston base to HMS Sultan. 

The much-loved red and grey aircraft have flown from RNAS Culdrose since 1988.

Brave aviators have used them every day to save thousands of lives in some of the most hazardous conditions imaginable. 

After 42 years of rescue operations from RNAS Culdrose, conducting over 9000 jobs and saving over 15000 lives, 771 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) was formally decommissioned at the end of March.

At 15 minutes’ notice by day and 45 minutes by night, the Squadron provided a lifesaving service within a 200 nautical mile radius of RNAS Culdrose. 

They have carried out over 200 rescues every 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.

Their assistance to mariners in distress has gained them numerous 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’.

Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose will continue to train crews in search and rescue as it is an essential skill for aviation at sea. 

The future for the Air Station remains bright.  As a ‘Core Base’ for Defence, RNAS Culdrose will continue to provide aviators and helicopters for front line operations within the Royal Navy.

It also has a vital training role.  Aircraft including Merlin helicopters, Sea King Mk7s, King Air Avengers and Hawks will still be seen in the skies around RNAS Culdrose.


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