Special experience for coastguard crew as they become first to land on Birkenhead-built RRS Sir David Attenborough

An HM Coastguard helicopter crew have described their recent joint training exercise with Cammell Laird built polar research ship RRS Sir David Attenborough as a ‘special’ experience, as they became the first-ever to use the helideck.

Kate Willoughby, a winchman paramedic based at the Humberside search and rescue base, said the Humber helicopter had been looking for a suitable vessel to engage with on a training run last week when she spotted the advanced research vessel.

She said the helicopter crew wanted to see if the vessel was willing to engage in an exercise on Thursday 5 August and they were ‘very keen’ – with the David Attenborough ending up taking part in two days of activities.

On Thursday, a crew member was winched from the helicopter to the vessel and back, before they returned on Friday to become the first-ever helicopter to land on the helideck.

“They were very keen to take part in the exercise – it was really exciting, as soon as I spotted them in our vicinity I knew we had to get in touch to ask if they were willing to take part,” Kate said.

“And they really were, it was a great experience.

“It was amazing for me as well as winchman because I was the one who was winched on board, and even got to see a tiny bit of the vessel as we had to walk through the ship from the stern to the bow for winch recovery. It’s a stunning vessel.

“They then told us they’d never had a helicopter land so, although we weren’t able to do it that day, we sent a team back on Friday to do this.

“I sadly wasn’t involved on the Friday but it was still fantastic to have been part of the team to be the first to land on this famous vessel.”

The Humber search and rescue helicopter crew prepare to become the first-ever
helicopter to use the RRS Sir David Attenborough helipad
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