High Fliers

HMS Gannet – a landmark year in more ways than one

The crew at HMS Gannet have hit the headlines more than once in the last few months – the biggest story being the extraordinary tale of Adam Potter.

Adam is the 36-year-old climber from Glasgow who fell a staggering 1000ft from the summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor and lived to tell the tale after being rescued by the Royal Navy’s duty Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet.

The duty helicopter was already airborne on a training exercise when the team were alerted at 1405hrs meaning they were able to begin their area search at about 1435hrs.

Due to the large area covered by HMS Gannet, the average distance for a single sortie is 53 miles and the average time duration is just over an hour and a half.

The speedy and professional actions of the Ayrshire team helped Adam check out of hospital just two days after his fall.

“Without their almost immediate assistance, it’s anyone’s guess what may have happened.” says Adam.

As the trend of the ‘staycation’ – holidays spent exploring local countryside instead of jetting abroad – increases in popularity; more and more people are climbing, biking and camping in the UK.

While this is great news for the environment, the population’s health and British tourism – services like those based at HMS Gannet are becoming increasingly valuable in rescuing people when things go wrong.

Gannet is under threat of closure due to plans for search and rescue operations to be privatised. Currently these plans have been suspended by Westminster but the future remains uncertain.

Their area of operations encompasses Scotland and England’s highest peaks, Northern Ireland and the Inner Hebridean islands as well as the sea areas, which can be some of the UK’s most treacherous stretches of water.

“And all this can be subjected to extremely challenging weather conditions – even in the summer.”, says HMS Gannet’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Debdash Bhattacharya.

On average the Prestwick based crew respond to more than one emergency every single day of the year.

More recently two Gannet aircrew have celebrated major milestones.

Captain Michael ‘Jack’ Frost passed 6,000 flying hours and Petty Officer Marcus ‘Wiggy’ Wigfull notched up a full 800 emergency sorties – making him the Royal Navy’s most experienced search and rescue aircrewman.

HMS Gannet deals with just fewer than 20% of all UK military SAR call outs and the base has remained the busiest SAR in the UK for the fourth year running.

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