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Boulmer's Purpose-built SAR Flight 1976 Style
by Flight Lieutenant D. J. Carey (Air Clues 1976)

Boulmer's Purpose-built SAR Flight

UNTIL the autumn of 1975, 'A' Flight of No 202 Squadron operated two Whirl-wind 10 helicopters in the SAR role from the disused airfield at Acklington in Northumberland, sharing the old wartime airfield with a prison and an open-cast coalmine. The time came when the Nation-al Coal Board required access to the coal underneath the helicopter enclave, so 'A' Flight had to find a new home. After a year-long building programme, the helicopter flight was declared operational at RAF Boulmer on 2 October 1975.

Unlike other SAR flight accommodation which usually consists of convenient buildings that have been part of an existing station for some time, the new building was designed specifically for a search and rescue helicopter unit. The layout and standards of the 'A Flight Hilton' are in-tended to provide a high standard of personal comfort for both air and ground crews, who remain on shift for 24-hour periods.

Crewrooms, bedrooms, kitchen and dining room combine to reduce fatigue and therefore promote individual efficiency. Even the eight mallard ducks, the Flight's mascots, have a pond which was donated by the building contractors, George Wimpey and Co. The Flight members are justly proud of their new accommodation, which boasts a coffee bar built of Lakeland stone by the donors, the Langdale-Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team in Cumbria.

The communications office, nerve-centre of the Flight.
The communications office, nerve-centre of the Flight.

More importantly, the planners sought advice from the helicopter operators about the design of the operational and technical rooms. The layout of the offices and working area, together with a heated hangar of Sea King size, eliminates the frustrations of more ancient buildings.

Boulmer is only eight miles north of Acklington, so there will be no difference to the SAR service provided by 'A' Flight; the unit continues to provide a helicopter on 15-minute official standby during day-light and on one hour standby at night, although in practice scramble times are much quicker when lives are at stake.

Relaxing on stand-by.
Relaxing on stand-by.

England's most northern RAF SAR Flight had a remarkable increase in the number of operational sorties last year compared with previous years. During 1975 the Flight was involved in 60 call-outs in which a total of 40 people received assistance. Early in the year it was an 'A' Flight helicopter which rescued the sole survivor of a Victor tanker that had crashed 100 miles East of Acklington. Rescues of fallen Lake District climbers were frequent in the summer, and the scramble bell rang for the 60th time on the last day of the year!

So much for the present. The future promises the Sea King helicopter which will greatly increase the operational cap-ability of Boulmer's helicopter flight and bring most off-shore oil and gas installations within its radius of action, al-though the Whirlwind will be remembered as a very reliable SAR machine, the sight of which has been life to many.