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HMS Gannet

(Redirected from RNAS Prestwick)

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HMS Gannet, also known as RNAS Prestwick, is a Royal Naval Search and Rescue Station (SAR) situated on the northern margin of Prestwick Airport, half a mile (0.8 km) east of Monkton, south Ayrshire.. The station is responsible for military and civilian search and rescue in Western Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland, together with substantial areas of the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Its operation covers one of the largest areas within the UK, extending from Ben Nevis in the north, south to the Isle of Man and the Lake District, east to Edinburgh and the Borders, west to Northern Ireland and on to 200 miles west of Ireland over the north Atlantic - an area of some 81,000 square miles. The flight operates three Sea King Mk 5 helicopters, staffing consisted of 16 officers, 55 ratings and 32 civilian staff, when the Navy entry was consulted in 2006. In 2009, this had changed to 15 officers, 11 ratings, 28 civil servants and 50 civilian staff.

A document published in 2009, by Defence Estates which manages estates on behalf of the MoD, show that the site covers 21 hectares and is leasehold.[1]

The present HMS Gannet was established at Prestwick Airport in 1971 and is the ninth to bear the name, albeit now as a Royal Navy shore establishment or stone frigate. The name of HMS Gannet had previously been used by RNAS Eglington, Northern Ireland, established in 1943).

Chosen for its excellent weather record and communications, Prestwick has hosted three Naval Air Squadrons: 814 NAS, 824 NAS and 819 NAS. The longest serving Squadron at HMS Gannet was 819, which had moved to Prestwick from RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, in October 1971, but was decommissioned in 2001.

The station is on 24 hour call, 365 days a year, the crews can be called to attend any of the following: Air-Sea Rescue, Mountain Rescue, Air Lift, Recovery, Military SAR, and Major Accident Response. Missions vary and range from recovering lost or fallen climbers in winter snow to rescuing injured fishermen up to 200 miles offshore, plus the provision of medical evacuation services to the many island communities on the west coast.

The Royal Navy converted RNAS Prestwick to a Forward Operating Base with effect from April 2002 and in so doing so disposed of one of two sites at Prestwick, known as the Greensite, which comprised surplus accommodation.[2]

819 Naval Air Squadron

November 1, 2001, 819 NAS at HMS Gannet was decommissioned.

819 NAS had been in residence for 30 years and performed anti-submarine duties in defence of the Clyde. The Squadron had also been involved in extended world wide deployments, local exercises, weapons testing, submarine Commander training, and had a major impact on the Scottish community thanks to its SAR operations. The Squadron assisted with the Piper Alpha disaster of July 6, 1988, and its helicopters were first to arrive on scene in the aftermath of the Lockerbie disaster of December 20, 1988, assisted in the search for the Solway Harvester lost off the Isle of Man on January 11, 2000, and was first on scene at the Airtours Cessna crash near Glasgow airport on September 3, 1999.

TS Fisgard

Also located at HMS Gannet is the National Sea Cadet Engineering Training Centre known as TS Fisgard, dedicated to providing marine engineering courses for cadets and adult instructors from units around the country. The first courses took place in 1973, with the name TS Fisgard adopted in 1998 and a new purpose-built centre opened in 2002.

HMS Gannet has had a sea cadet presence since 1973, when the first engineering training courses were piloted. In 1998, the training centre celebrated its first 25 years in service, and is now considered to be the leading sea cadet engineering facility in the UK.

Search and Rescue operations to end in 2012

In an announcement which came as a surprise to the local MP, the transfer of SAR operations from HMS Gannet at Prestwick to Glasgow under a new multi-billion pound privatisation deal agreed by the MoD, was revealed on February 9, 2010, and due to come into effect in 2012.[3]

Ayrshire MP Brian Donohoe said it would mean the end of the Gannet base because search and rescue made uo 90% of its operation.


1 Estate Baseline 2009, Defence Estates, MoD

2 House of Commons Hansard, January 31, 2001.

3 BBC News, HMS Gannet to lose search and rescue operations, February 9, 2010.

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