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RAF’s Moffat rescue training role ends

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By Bob Geddes
RAF's Moffat rescue training role ends

A SEA KING helicopter from HMS Gannet at Prestwick has taken part in what could be the RAF's last joint-search and rescue exercise in the Moffat Hills.

The weekend event ends a long RAF training association with the Moffat Mountain Rescue Team as air search and rescue (SAR) operations are due to switch to private operator Bristow Helicopters in the new year.

The UK limited company was awarded a ten-year UK Search and Rescue contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013.

The company has already opened its fifth SAR helicopter base at St Athan  and are now working towards bases at Prestwick and Newquay beginning operations in the new year as part of a network.

The annual Moffat exercise on Saturday and Sunday saw the first day devoted to a  number of skills in which the various teams took part in.

Along with Moffat Mountain Rescue, teams from Galloway, Tweed Valley, Borders search and rescue along with Police Scotland mountain rescue teams took part.

Sunday’s exercise was a search and rescue scenario, which involved two crashed paragliders.

Moffat team leader Colin Golfin, who lives in Annan, said they had a very successful weekend and added: “Sunday involved a full-scale search with a helicopter from HMS Gannet involved.

“It took teams out and on the first trip located one of the paragliders and later the second one was also located and winched up.”

Mr Golfin has been involved in the rescue team since the late 1980s and took part in the searches after the Lockerbie air disaster.

He said: “We are mainly involved with HMS Gannet but helicopters from HMS Bulmer, which has now ceased to be a SAR base, were also used in this area.

“In fact one of Bulmer’s last missions in September was to take a 65-year-old woman who had fallen at Moffat to hospital in Edinburgh.”

“After Gannet is phased out as an SAR base we will rely on the new service but at the present time we cannot comment on it. It is supposed to carry on as normal and we will wait and see.

He added: “There is going to a joint-exercise involving Moffat and Galloway teams along with the new service next month.”

Samantha Willenbacher, director of UK search and rescue at Bristow Helicopters, said: “It has been a busy start for our new SAR bases with a high number of tasks over the summer months.

“The support we have received from local SAR partners who have taken the time to train with us and share their local knowledge has been invaluable in ensuring a smooth transition to the new service, as has the support of the military, airports and local communities in each area.”



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21st Jun

Sunday start

By Zac Hannay | DNG24