The HMS Gannet Sea Kings pass over the Wallace Monument at Stirling during the fly-past. Photo: Thomas McDonald/Royal Navy

The HMS Gannet Sea Kings pass over the Wallace Monument at Stirling during the fly-past. Photo: Thomas McDonald/Royal Navy

Aircrews from the Royal Navy’s search and rescue helicopters made an emotional final tour of Scottish communities today.

The fly-past was greeted by members of the public, including mountain rescue teams who have worked with the HMS Gannet crews for the past years.

The helicopter heroes handed over search and rescue responsibilities to civilian personnel at the beginning of the year. Today’s flight by three Sea Kings from the Ayrshire base crossed Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Troon, Oban, Tyndrum and Ayr.

The event was an emotional time for the HMS Gannet crew. Commanding officer of the unit, Lieutenant Commander Charlie Fuller, who flew on the final fly-past, said: “There was definitely a lump in the throat.

“It’s sad to be saying goodbye, but there is also a huge sense of pride at a mission which has been completed well.

“HMS Gannet has played a big role in many people’s lives. The unit was not only a significant part of the local Prestwick community, but has touched dozens of often remote communities around Scotland. It was amazing to see so many members of the public come out to wave us off as we flew past.

“We would like to thank each and every one of them.”

Last year HMS Gannet was the busiest search and rescue flight in the UK, taking part in 314 rescues. In 2009, the Scottish-based SAR unit broke the record for most rescues in one year, conducting 447 missions around the country.

On 1 January their 44-year SAR responsibilities ended when they handed over to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency contractor Bristow Helicopters.

Lt Cdr Fuller said: “Many of the pilots and crew from Bristow have a military search and rescue background so we know that we are leaving people in safe hands.”

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