‘It’s been an absolute privilege to be based here in Northumberland’ – that’s the view of the man in charge of ‘A’ Flight 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmer ahead of their last day tomorrow.
On the penultimate day of Search and Rescue being provided from RAF Boulmer, after 40 years in total and 37 in the Sea Kings, the Gazette visited the base to look back on four decades of the service. From tomorrow, responsibility will be handed over to the new civilian service run by Bristow Helicopters under the auspices of HM Coastguard.
Officer Commanding ‘A’ Flight 202 Squadron, Squadron Leader Iain Macfarlane, said today was ‘a mixed bag of emotions; quite a lot of sadness and reflection going on, but also a lot of pride’.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to be based here in Northumberland for all these years,” he said. “Unlike any other Search and Rescue base around the coast, the community here has really taken us to their hearts and we very much appreciate the warmth and support we have had from all of the local community.”
Since records began in 1983 up to the end of last year, the crews at RAF Boulmer have been called out 4,856 times and assisted 3,934 people. There has been a steady rise in the number of callouts since the 80s with the highest number (214) coming in 2009. The highest number of people moved in a single year was 191 in 2000.
Notable incidents that the Boulmer Sea Kings have been involved in include the Alexander Keilland oil-rig collapse in the North Sea in March 1980, the Lockerbie plane disaster in December that same year, the explosion of the Piper Alpha oil platform in July 1988 and rescuing flood victims from Carlisle in January 2005.