8:56am Tuesday 26th March 2013
By Emma Ferguson
RNAS Culdrose will no longer be a base for search and rescue flying.
It means the award-winning naval crewmembers of 771 Squadron will not be in charge of the life-saving service that they have been providing for more than half a century.
It is after the Department of Transport announced today that a US-based company will be taking over the UK’s search and rescue operations from 2015.
The contract has been awarded to the Bristow Group, from Texas, which has won a ten-year £1.6 billion contract.
The news comes as the Royal Navy celebrates 60 years of search and rescue flying.
Instead this service for Cornwall will now be based in Newquay. There will also be nine other sites around the UK.
West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, said: “This is, of course, a bitter disappointment to those who have admired and supported the excellent and heroic service which the 771 Squadron has provided in the West for many decades.
“In truth, the writing was on the wall for the service based at Culdrose when the last Labour Government regrettably decided that they would privatise the service in 2006.
“Although it proposed to initially continue running Search and Rescue from Culdrose, we all understood that it would just be a matter of time before a civilian service would find its own home.
“It is regrettable that the service will be moving to Newquay. I have concerns that both the operational capacity of Culdrose and its capacity to attend many incidents in the far reaches of the Western Approaches – often 200 – 250 miles west of the Isles of Scilly – will not receive the same response from Newquay. Although the S92 is a superior air frame to the Sea King, Culdrose has a clear locational advantage over Newquay in terms of its access to the many and challenging maritime incidents that happen in the far West.
“This news does not in any way undermine the future of RNAS Culdrose itself as the naval air station is the fulcrum of the military Merlin air arm which is crucial for the future of Royal Naval operations.
“Obviously, the military will still have to make their own arrangements for military Search and Rescue and the maritime counter terrorism role which the 771 Squadron provided will need to be operated differently.
“It just remains for those of us who have fought to keep Search and Rescue at Culdrose to honour and respect those who have contributed to an excellent service.”
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