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Three climbers rescued by HMS Gannet SAR

Published: 04 Dec 2012

A Royal Navy helicopter from the UK’s busiest search and rescue unit has lifted three climbers to safety from Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe. And just in the nick of time, too. With a wintry forecast stalking Scotland last night, there had already been operational weather safety restrictions put on the duty helicopter. For, with that forecast, there was a promise of prolonged freezing rain – conditions in which the helicopter simply cannot fly. Freezing rain can rapidly collect on the helicopter’s airframe forming ice build-ups, creating excess weight and drag. This, in turn, impairs the aircraft’s ability to manoeuvre correctly and, therefore, compromises its overall performance and safety. The three walkers, however, oblivious to this possible restriction, were disorientated in sub-zero, snowy conditions on the 3,353 feet peak. All were experienced and well equipped, as well as familiar with the peak. But they had taken an incorrect turn on the route and become lost. Their distress call went in to Fort William police at 5.03pm (December 2) and the four-strong crew from HMS Gannet in Prestwick was alerted at 5.16pm and airborne from their Ayrshire base at 5.29pm. The mountain rescue team for Glencoe was also alerted. What the climbers could not have known was that the tolerable operating weather window for the helicopter getting out of Prestwick had been assessed to be closing at 7pm.


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