The sight of a Royal Navy Sea King search and rescue helicopter in the skies above Bute will become a thing of the past from Friday.
The famous red-and-grey machine from HMS Gannet in Prestwick will fly its final emergency missions on December 31 before private firm Bristow Helicopters takes over search and rescue operations as part of a ten-year contract with the Department of Transport.
The Bristow service, led by a former Sea King pilot from HMS Gannet, will use two Sikorsky S92 helicopters, operating from a base at Prestwick Airport which was officially opened earlier this month.
Most of the HMS Gannet team’s visits to Bute over the years have been for medical evacuations from Rothesay to hospitals on the mainland, a duty shared in recent years with the Scottish Ambulance Service’s bright yellow helicopters, operated by Bond Air Services on behalf of Gama Aviation.
The Gannet-based Sea King has also made numerous publicity visits to the island, most recently for the annual Baird of Bute Festival of Flight celebrations held at Ettrick Bay every September.
On their penultimate day of service, the HMS Gannet team airlifted 12 passengers from a bus which got stuck in flood water in Dailly in south Ayrshire.
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