2nd Group takes part in RAF SAR Sea King helicopter familiarisation training at RAF Valley

Readers of our website may recall that on Saturday 17th October 2009, a group of team members journeyed to RAF Valley to undertake Sea King rescue helicopter familiarisation training. (See account dated the same)

The second group was scheduled to go on 14th November, but gales and heavy rain led to cancellation.

Kindly ’C’ Flight, 22 Squadron RAF Valley, offered up today as a replacement date, so at the early time of 07.00hrs 17x Team members and Trainee MR Trail Dog ’Boris,’ all assembled at our Ladybridge Hall Base / HQ to journey down to RAF Valley on Anglesey with fingers crossed (and paws in the case of Boris) that they would be as lucky as our first group and all get winched in and out and all get a flight.

The nearer they got to Anglesey the worse the rain, visibility and low cloud became, crossing Brittania Bridge saw no let up in the heavy rain and mist, and then suddenly clear skies greeted the Bolton MRT vehicle ’convoy,’ and their luck was in.

Security formalities over with our members were escorted across the normally very busy RAF Valley airfield to the SAR Force dispersal area, co-located with the RAF Valley MRT Base / HQ and HQ Flight RAF Mountain Rescue Service.

Here our members were met by the on duty staff of ’C’ Flight, 22 Squadron Royal Air Force (Helicopter Search and Rescue), themselves co-located with the Sea King Helicopter Operational Conversion Unit.

Flt Lt Giles Ratcliffe presented an overview of the current RAF SAR helicopter force, and then outlined aircraft safety points when working with the Sea King HAR MK3, Master Aircrewman Rich Taylor then covered winching techniques warning all present of such niceities as “the winch hook is designed to always hit you when you are not looking,” and “beware of the static discharge cable, let that touch the ground first!”

Then it was out on to the aircraft apron and grouped into three parties all watched as aircraft Sea King HAR Mk3 XZ587 took to the air and then came to the hover, and off our members trooped to be winched into the aircraft via double strop lifts, a quick flight around the airfield and then winched out again.

All 17x of our members were winched in and out, and enjoyed a flight, all in the company of two Paramedics from the Welsh Ambulance Service, (Dolgellau Ambulance Station), who were present for the same training as our team members.

Even our Trainee MR Trail Dog Boris got winched in and a flight around the airfield, although a slight problem with his winch harness meant the helicopter landed to let him and his handler Steve Nelson disembark.

Boris gets his wings!

Both our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE and Deputy Team Leader Geoff Seddon attended, and like the Royal Family! they flew on seperate flights……..just in case!

All to soon the day was over and 17x Team members plus Boris headed back to Bolton, newly ’certified’ to fly and be winched on Sea King helicopters.

The team would like to thank Flt Lt Giles Ratcliffe for arranging this valuable and necessary training, and for safely piloting our members on the day, alongside the other Flight Crew involved ; Flt Lt Dan Loxton, Flt Sgt Nick Swannick (Radar Operator / Winch Operator) and Master Aircrewman Rich Taylor (Winchman/Paramedic)

(Finally 41 years MR service and founder team member Alan ’General’ James (also a Team Vice President) who attended today, found out that the venerable Wessex and Whirlwinds he was so familiar with had actually been replaced many years ago by the Sea King………only joking Al!)

Claire Whitney and Jude Waltho enjoying their helicopter “experience”