After supporting and fundraising for the RAF’s Search and Rescue service for 25 years it was the turn of Mark Mair to step into the limelight during the Royal Visit to Moray this week.
A former Buckie-based fisherman these days Mark is the training officer at Ace Winches – but much of his spare time has been employed in fundraising for the SAR service as well as more recently helping Morayvia towards the creation of a permanent air museum in Moray.
Mark received a special presentation this week from the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Lt Col Grenville Johnston, marking 25 years of dedication to SAR.
He said: “It was a great honour and humbling for me to be awarded for this.
“I was asked what where some of the highlights over the past 25 years. First of all SAR is only possible by the hard work of engineers who keep the aircraft it a serviceable state – the ARCC Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at Kinloss and also the Mountain Rescue teams and Coastguards.
“These men and women are unsung Heroes who provide a great service.
“Over the past 25 years I have had the privilege of flying with search and rescue aircraft from the RAF, Royal Navy, HM Coastguard and also the Air Ambulance. I’ve also enjoyed a fast jet trip with RAF Tornado jet – and a trip on HMS Invincible with the Royal Marines.”
Mark recalled two particular rescues: “I remember on February 2, 2002 a rescue by 202 Squadron. Fl Lt Tony Gear and his crew rescued 18 fishermen in very high seas and also out of normal range.
“When he retired I was gifted his log book, including details of 18 people rescued – that was a mark of the man.”
The second rescue that Mark will never forget involved himself – he explained: “The familiar sight of the RAF’s big yellow Sea King helicopters are a welcome sight to those in danger in the waters surrounding the United Kingdom.
“So there was some relief for me when the aircraft flew into view above the trawler Accord sailing around 110 miles off the North-east coast.
“I had injured my right hand on one of the boat’s huge metal doors and needed urgent medical attention – but I was delighted to discover that flying the helicopter was my friend of over 20 years, Flight Lieutenant Ian Campbell from RAF Boulmer in Northumberland.
“I was congratulating Ian one afternoon after a job where he had rescued many crewmen from an oil tanker in big seas – it was massive, horrendous conditions.
“It drew a lot of media attention with press men waiting for pictures and interviews – but his main point was that he was only doing his job. Outstanding.”
With the RAF’s SAR soon to be disbanded Mark added that it will be a sad day to see the yellow Sea King depart: “It will be sad as in my view we will have lost the best Search and Rescue unit in the world.”