Aerial lifesavers reflect on a busy 2004

THE lifesaving helicopter search and rescue crews of Suffolk were scrambled to 136 rescues and potential emergencies in 2004.Sea King crews from the RAF B Flight 22 Squadron, based at Wattisham Airfield, are on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year as they standby to rescue military or civilians in difficulties.

By John Howard

THE lifesaving helicopter search and rescue crews of Suffolk were scrambled to 136 rescues and potential emergencies in 2004.

Sea King crews from the RAF B Flight 22 Squadron, based at Wattisham Airfield, are on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year as they standby to rescue military or civilians in difficulties.

And the squadron, based near Stowmarket, has just released a review of its activities during last year, which included jobs ranging from military emergencies to 26 trips transporting sick adults and babies who needed hospital treatment.


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Some of the more dramatic emergencies during the year included a Sea King crew which was training in the Lake District being called in to assist a soldier in difficulties.

The crew had to hover over trees in the dark and lower 200-feet of cable to rescue the soldier, before transferring him to hospital in Newcastle during October.

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Personnel were also called to the Greek airliner bomb threat at Stansted during September, in case they were needed to carry out medical evacuations.

Other jobs included being called out to many reports of missing windsurfers and Flt Lt Dave Kay, a Sea King pilot, said: “Our primary job is to be there for the military, but we also help whoever needs us and most jobs are for civilians.

“We had 136 jobs during 2004, compared to 161 in 2003. We have to be airborne in 15 minutes during the day, within 45 minutes after 10pm.

“We train up to 4.5 hours per 24 hour shift, practising all the things we do. It is very much a job like any other, but more rewarding than many other jobs.

“Unlike a lot of roles in the forces we prepare for things we actually do all the time, where other military can fly preparing for something they never do, although that is not so true these days with Iraq.

“During my service I have had everything from a child falling off a top bunk who suffered severe brain damage to people being hit by a boon on a yacht, which might sound comic until you see the state of him.''

Suffolk's B Flight has about 70 personnel, including ground staff, specialists and aircrews and two Sea King helicopters.

The squadron moved to Wattisham in October 1994 and covers thousand of miles of coastline from the wash to Dover and inland to London.

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