Walkers on the seafront on Saturday were able to see Morecambe RNLI’s lifeboat and hovercraft in a training exercise with one of HM Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopters.
This was the first time the local volunteers had been given the opportunity to train with a crew from HM Coastguard’s Caernarfon Search and Rescue Base since they took over civilian search and rescue responsibilities from RAF Valley on Anglesey.
Replacing the armed forces’ Sea Kings, the Coastguard’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter is a much larger aircraft with an air speed of 145 knots (166 mph) and an endurance of over four hours; presenting real challenges for both flight and lifeboat crews due to the greater downdraft created by the helicopter’s rotor blades.
After practicing the new manoeuvring techniques required, the helicopter’s winch man was successfully transferred into, and then recovered from, the inshore lifeboat.
The helicopter then continued the exercise by practicing various approaches to the inshore rescue hovercraft, before returning to its base.
Senior Hovercraft Commander, Harry Roberts MBE, said: “This was a useful learning experience for us and the helicopter crew.
“There are only four RNLI hovercraft stations in the UK and they have expressed an interest in more training sessions with the hovercraft as they pose very different challenges from working with boats.
“I will be contacting them later this week in order to discuss this.”