The Chairman of the Moray charity that is hoping to retain one of the iconic Sea King helicopters as a static exhibit has paid a personal tribute to the ground and air crews behind SAR flights from RAF Lossiemouth.
Mark Mair, who is the Training Officer at Turriff firm Ace Winches, has for the past 25 years provided support to rescue crews through his management of the SAR Trust Fund.
This week he was rewarded for his efforts when the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Grenville Johnston, organised a final flight for Mark aboard a Sea King from the Moray base before presenting him with a commemorative watch.
Mark’s day started called in on the often unsung heroes of SAR, the ground engineers and support staff who have kept the helicopters and crews equipped and prepared day in, day out for this demanding task.
The Sea King flight that followed was to have been a short training event – however, in a fitting and dramatic twist the crew was called to a real SAR incident just after they had passed Cullen. The crew received a call from the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at Kinloss Barracks ‘adopt Callsign Rescue 137 and proceed to Ben Nevis…’ and were tasked to assist with the rescue of an injured climber.
Speaking about his amazing day Mark paid tribute to the professionalism and dedication of the SAR crews – and particularly the ground staff who all work together to produce a polished and team performance that is second to none.
He said: “After supporting these people for the last 25 years in my own small way all I can say is that I am immensely proud of them and what they have achieved.
“It is more fitting that today my pilot was once again Flt Lt Ian Campbell, the man who captained the aircraft that rescued me some six years ago after my own accident at sea.
“I was treated like a royal visitor and I wish I could put into words the feelings I have at having to say farewell to the Sea King and RAF SAR team. Flying around Ben Nevis and watching the way the crew edged ever closer to effect the rescue, Ian’s flying felt as if the helicopter was on rails.
“I took the opportunity to fly a Teddy donated by Ace Winches and will be auctioning this unique memento to raise money for the RNLI, the Company’s requested charity.
“It can safely say now that it has been an honour and privilege to fly with the world’s best SAR unit. I am very grateful to the Lord Lieutenant, Grenville Johnston, for organizing my flight and presentation watch which I understand was donated by a very special SAR pilot, and to SAR Force Headquarters for permission to proceed.
“I would also like to say thank you to RAF SAR teams around the UK who have my made 25-year association with them such a pleasure, and I am very, very proud indeed of you all.
“As Chairman of Morayvia, I am determined that we will fight to retain a Sea King in Moray to provide a fitting tribute to your work here in Moray and beyond, at our Science and Technology Experience Project at North Road, Kinloss.