independent

Monday 21 April 2014

William's RAF rescue role to end

The Duke of Cambridge at the controls of a Sea King helicopter during a training exercise

The Duke of Cambridge's days as an RAF Sea King pilot are numbered following confirmation that Britain's search-and-rescue helicopter service is to be privatised.

The £1.6 billion deal with US-headquartered Bristow Helicopters ends 70 years of a service run by the RAF and Royal Navy squadrons and spells the end of the use of Sea King helicopters in search-and-rescue (SAR) work.

Prince William, 30, a flight lieutenant based at RAF Valley on Anglesey, is understood to have voiced concern over privatisation plans when he met Prime Minister David Cameron in Zurich, Switzerland, as part of England's 2018 World Cup bid in 2011.

The future Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces joined C Flight, 22 Squadron at RAF Valley in September 2010.

He qualified as an operational search and rescue captain last year and now has a full-time job - albeit with time off for royal appearances - rescuing stranded climbers and stricken vessels on emergency missions in Sea King helicopters.

The RAF said it would stop its search and rescue work from March 2016.

A spokesman said employees will then be faced with a number of possibilities which include ground-based roles and airborne roles, both in the UK and overseas. They will also have the option to apply to leave the RAF.

Under the new contract, 22 state-of-the-art helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK.

Ten Sikorsky S92s will be situated, two per site, at Stornoway and Sumburgh in Scotland, and at new bases at airports in Newquay in Cornwall, Caernarfon in Wales - which will take over operations previously covered by Prince William's base - and Humberside.

Ten AgustaWestland AW189s will operate, two per site, from Lee on Solent and a new hangar at Prestwick Airport, and new bases which will be established at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports. All bases will be operational 24 hours a day.

Press Association

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