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HMS Gannet SAR Flight
HMS Gannet SAR Flight badge
Active 1943-1959
1971-present day
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
Role Search and Rescue
Part of Fleet Air Arm
Garrison/HQ RNAS Prestwick
Equipment Sea King
Lieutenant-Commander Andy Drodge [1]

HMS Gannet SAR Flight is a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm squadron based at RNAS Prestwick in Scotland.[2] It operates three Sea King Mk5 helicopters in the military and civilian Search and Rescue role across Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland. The crews cover 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 consists of 15 officers, 11 ratings, 28 civil servants and 50 civilian staff. Gannet SAR also provides an important medical evacuation service to the many island communities and remote areas of Scotland. The crews feature regularly on the Channel 5 documentary series Highland Emergency.

2009 saw the unit break a new record as 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 2010 the flight was, for the fourth year in succession, the busiest Search & Rescue base in the UK with 379 call outs.[4]

2011 again saw the unit, for the 5th year in succession, as the busiest in the UK 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]


A number of ships have borne the name HMS Gannet, the first being a wooden sloop registered in March 1800. The seventh and final sea-going craft to bear the name was a river gunboat, commissioned in 1934. She was laid up and presented to the Chinese Navy in February 1942.

In May 1943 for the first time, the name HMS Gannet was given to a shore establishment, RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Eglington, in Northern Ireland. Their main function was to train naval pilots and aircrew in anti-submarine warfare. HMS Gannet received Battle Honours for its role in the Atlantic from 1943 until 1945. April 1959 saw Eglington close and the Squadrons moved to Derry and Ballykelly.

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. The SAR flight is presently the only squadron based at RNAS Prestwick.

In 1998 Gannet was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Peace for services to the local communities.

RN SAR 60[]

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

External links[]


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