Military Wiki
RNAS Prestwick (HMS Gannet)
RAF Prestwick
USAAF Station 500
HMS Gannet SAR Flight badge
Type Royal Naval Air Station
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1940 (1940)
In use 1940-unknown
as RAF Prestwick
23 November 1971-2016 (2016)
as RNAS Prestwick
Ministry of Defence
Occupants HMS Gannet SAR Flight

RNAS Prestwick (HMS Gannet) more popularly known as HMS Gannet is a former establishment of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

The base (which was located at Glasgow Prestwick Airport, South Ayrshire, Scotland) hosted the only Fleet Air Arm Search and Rescue Flight in Scotland (HMS Gannet SAR Flight).[1] It was decommissioned in February 2016.[2]


RAF Prestwick

Due to the Second World War the Air Ministry requisitioned the civilian Prestwick Airport for the Royal Air Force renaming it RAF Prestwick

A number of units were here at some point:

RNAS Prestwick (HMS Gannet)

The ninth and present HMS Gannet was established in 1971 at Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire. Over the years Prestwick has hosted three Naval Air Squadrons: 814 NAS, 824 NAS and 819 NAS. 819 was decommissioned in November 2001 after being in residence for 30 years.

RNAS Prestwick was added in January 1994

HMS Gannet Search and Rescue Flight

The SAR flight was the last flight based at RNAS Prestwick.

It operated two from three Sea King HU.5 helicopters in the military and civilian Search and Rescue role across Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. The crews covered an area from Ben Nevis in the north, the Isle of Man and the Lake District to the south, east to Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and the Borders, west to Northern Ireland and extends 200 miles (320 km) west of Ireland over the north Atlantic, giving an operational area of approx. 98,000 square miles.[3]

Personnel at the base consisted of 15 officers, 11 ratings, 28 civil servants and 50 civilian staff. The primary role is one of military Search and Rescue, with secondary roles in civilian Search and Rescue. Gannet also provides an important medical evacuation service to the many island communities and remote areas of Scotland. To perform these roles, one of the helicopters is on 15 minutes notice to fly during the day, and 45 minutes during the night, with a duty crew on call for 24 hours. This duty is maintained for 365 days of the year, with a second standby aircraft ready to assist should the emergency demand it. In 1998 Gannet was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for services to the local communities.[citation needed]

Consistently one of the busiest SAR units in the UK, 2009 saw the SAR Flight break a new record when they were tasked to 447 call outs. This figure equated to 20% of the UK’s total military SAR call outs in that year. In 2011, the Flight was the busiest SAR unit for the fifth year in succession. In 2010, with 379 call outs.[4] and 2011 with 298 call-outs and 240 people rescued.[5]

In 2012 there were again 298 call-outs resulting in the rescue of 285 people.[6]

In 2014 Gannet SAR was tasked to 299 call-outs. This number made them the second busiest in the UK. RAF Valley in Wales was the busiest with 329 jobs.[7]

As of the 1 January 2016 at 9AM, they were replaced by civilians from Bristow Helicopters and HM Coastguard.[8]

The flight was disbanded on 5 February 2016.[9]


As one of only two commissioned units of the 10 that have operated within the Royal Navy in the dedicated Search and Rescue role, in 2013, Gannet SAR Flight was a core part of year-long celebrations to recognise 60 years of RN Helicopter Search and Rescue. Events took place throughout the country and media all year, with the RN SAR Force raising £60,000 for charity.

Transfer of SAR function to Bristow Helicopters

With effect from 1 January 2016, the SAR function which had been performed by the Gannet SAR Flight was transferred to Bristow Helicopters, acting on behalf of HM Coastguard, part of the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency.[10]



Some of the crew from HMS Gannet on TV's Highland Emergency

A number of units were here at some point:

In popular culture

The SAR flight featured regularly on the Channel 5 documentary series Highland Emergency and BBC's "Countryside Rescue".




  • Jefford MBE, Wg Cdr C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6. 
  • Sturtivant, R; Ballance, T (1994). The Squadrons of The Fleet Air Arm. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-223-8. 

External links

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