The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award

Awarded to an individual member of a helicopter crew, a complete crew or the crews of multiple helicopters, for an act of outstanding courage or devotion to duty in the course of land or sea search and rescue operations.


2019 Awarded to: Caernarfon Rescue 936: Captain Kate Simmonds, Captain Dave Kenyon AFC, Winch Operator Richard Taylor QGM and Winchman Paramedic Alistair Drummond


004 Caernarfon 936 - PPHOn 22 August 2018 at 1422 (all times local), the Caernarfon SAR helicopter, Rescue 936, was tasked by the UK ARCC to assist in the rescue of an unconscious female walker near the summit of Cadair Idris in southern Snowdonia.  A party of 12 students on a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition had been caught out by the poor weather, with one member of the party unconscious, another displaying signs of hypothermia and several others thought to be deteriorating.

The primary casualty had initially been badly shaken having fallen on the loose, steep ground and her condition had worsened with the weather, forcing the party to abandon the ascent.  The subsequent lack of progress and exposure to unseasonably poor weather had started to affect other members of the party, with every likelihood of the situation developing into a major incident should assistance not reach the group soon.

In view of the serious nature of the casualty’s condition a ‘full team callout’ was initiated by Aberdyfi Search and Rescue Team (SRT) but would take some time to reach the estimated position given its elevation and the appalling weather on scene.  Rescue 936 was tasked by UK Rescue in support, noting that the incident was some way above the reported cloud-base.

Weather conditions at Caernarfon Airport were poor, with overcast cloud at 2004 Winchman Drummond - PPH00 feet, and limited visibility below.  Launching at 1434, the crew were unable to clear the high ground and powerlines south of the airfield, forcing them to climb and use the onboard radar to let-down in the relative safety of Cardigan Bay.  Radar was then used to close with the coastline, eventually making contact at the mouth of the Mawddach estuary, a valley feature leading inland towards the northern edge of the Cadair Idris massif.  Still in conditions of reduced visibility, the crew persevered with a hover-taxy along the estuary using radar and the aircraft ground proximity warning system to assist.  The chance of effecting a rescue at this stage thought by the crew to be reliant on the chance of a possible break in the weather at the incident site due to potential shielding from the westerly wind.

After several aborted attempts, the crew eventually found a low-level route and displayed exemplary airmanship in safely navigating the aircraft around a smaller range of hills towards the lower slopes of Cadair Idris.  Communications at this low altitude were problematic with many broken radio calls, changing grid references and a second ‘job’ also starting to develop on the mountain.  The gist of the radio messages soon became clear: MRT still hadn’t reached the site but were in receipt of increasingly desperate requests for help from the casualties.  Given the seriousness of the casualties’ predicament, and reports that MRT were also struggling in the increasingly heavy driving rain, the crew took the decision to try and close with the reported site by hover-taxying up the mountain in cloud.  A moment was taken to prepare the likely medical and winching equipment before Rescue 936 embarked a lengthy and demanding ‘up, left, and back’ taxy, using all members or the crew to ensure clearances with the rockface.

Liaising with MRT making their way to the casualties from the opposite direction, line features were selected and used to move the aircraft towards the incident site at 2500 ft above sea level.  Arriving on scene at the same time as the MRT, it became clear that 2 of the party needed immediate evacuation by air.  The aircraft was positioned crosswind, still left side on, and both casualties quickly winched to the cabin.  With strong turbulence, heavy rain, and the surrounding mountains precluding a climb-out on instruments Rescue 936 started to reverse the route down the mountain, still in thick cloud; 15 Caernarfon Rescue 936 PPH Rescue Awardanother demanding and protracted manoeuvre requiring intense concentration from the entire crew.  Some measure of the degree of difficulty can be gleaned by the fact that, at times, the aircraft was barely out-pacing some of the unladen MRT also making their way down.

Conditions had worsened in the Mawddach estuary and, with rapidly diminishing fuel reserves, radar was once again required to safely navigate the aircraft to Aberystwyth followed by a low-level transit to Bronglais Hospital.  After handing over the casualties Rescue 936 routed to Llanbedr Airfield, landing with 4 minutes’ worth of fuel remaining above minima. 

This rescue demanded the highest level of skill and teamwork from the crew.  Mr Chris Dunne, Aberdyfi SRT leader, later thanked the crew and described the rescue as a “superb act of flying” and praised the “exceptional work” of the crew in “extremely challenging conditions.”

The crew of Rescue 936: Captain Kate Simmonds, Co-Pilot Dave Kenyon, Winch Operator Rich Taylor and Winchman/Paramedic Alistair Drummond, are commended for their actions which resulted in the safe recovery of the walkers from Cadair Idris on the evening of 22 August 2018.  Safely operating the aircraft to its limits at times, in the most appalling conditions, and in conjunction with Aberdyfi SRT, they demonstrated exemplary judgement, handling skills, and bravery.  They are accordingly awarded the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award.


Previous Winners:

1978/79  Captain G Bain, Captain C C Bosanquet, Captain A Campbell, B Johnstone Esq

1979/80 Flt Lt R E Neville, Flt Lt M J Lakey, Flt Sgt J K Moody, Flt Sgt C M Yarwood

1980/81 Master Air Loadmaster David Edward Bullock GC (posthumously)

1981/82 Lieutenant Commander H S Clark 825 Squadron

1982/83 Wessex MK3 of HMS Antrim Flight - Lieutenant Commander I Stanley DSO, Lt C J Parry, Sub Lt S Cooper, PO Aircrewman D B Fitzgerald

1983/84 PO Aircrewman John Stephen Coleman

1984/85 Joint Award to 826 N.A.S (Sea King) and HMS Endurance (WASP)

1985/86 Lieutenant D Marr, POACMN M C Palmer, POACMN L Slater

1986/87  WO1 I D Johnstone AAC & Sgt D I Lewis REME

1987/88  Jeff Todd Esq

1988/89  Flight Sergeant Vaughan Dodsworth AFM RAF

1989/90  PO Aircrewman S W Wright, PO Aircrewman D S Wallace

1990/91  Flight Lieutenant D Kerr-Sheppard RAF, Flight Lieutenant D G Gow RAF, MAEOP M R Cornes, MALM W Payne

1992  Not Awarded

1992/93  772 Naval Air Squadron Helicopter - Lieutenant M I P Langley, POACM A Rogers, LACMN B Buggins

1993/94  Flight Sergeant Chris J Wood

1994/95  The Crew of Rescue 169: Flight Lieutenant A Cooper, Flight Lieutenant M Dennis, Flight Lieutenant G Holmes, Flight Sergeant P Trethewey

1995/96  Rescue 25, 78 Squadron, Falkland Islands: Flight Lieutenant M Dennis, Flight Lieutenant T Gear, Flight Sergeant Larke, Sergeant S Labouchardiere

1996/97  Rescue 193 from RNAS CULDROSE - Lieutenant B J Nicholas, Lieutenant J M Collicutt, Lieutenant G P Norris, POACM P J Warrington, LACM R W McKee

1997/98  Posthumously for William (Bill) Deacon

ALSO:  A special award to: Crews 03, 06 and 10 of Sea Flight 810 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Station, Culdrose

1998/99  The Crew of the Bell 412 Helicopter VH-CFT of Careflight

1999/2000  The helicopter pilots and crew of the South African Air Force

2000/01 Crew of HMS Montrose

             Flight Sergeant Trevor Thompson AFC

2001/02  Crew of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter - Peter Yates, Dr Michael Novy, Tim Thistleton, Matthew Scott, Paul Featherstone

2002/03  'Rescue 137' D Flight No 202 Squadron, RAF Lossiemouth

2003/04 Rescue 193 RN

2004/05  Rescue 193 (Boscastle)

2005/06  Rescue 193 of 771 Naval Air Squadron

2006/07  Crew of 'Rescue 901' 442 Squadron CAF

              Hong Kong Government Flying Service

2007/08  HMS GANNET SAR FLIGHT 'Rescue 177'

             'BLACKOUT 26' 7 Sqn RAF

2008/09   Crew of "Rescue 193" of 771 Naval Air Squadron

2009/10   Crew of R902, 442 Sqn Canadian Air Force

2010/11   "HMS Chatham" Lynx - 226 Flt, 815 NAS

2011/12  Crew of Rescue 193 Naval Air Squadron: Lieutenant Commander Mike Luscombe RN, Captain Martin Roskilly RM, Lieutenant Jason "Tom" Sawyer RN, Sergeant Anthony Russell RM

2012/13 Rescue 912, 103 SAR Sqn RCAF: Captain Aaron Noble, Captain Jon Groten, Master Warrant Officer Jeff Warden, Sergeant Brad Hiscock, Master Corporal Mark Vokey

2013/14 Rescue 193 771 Naval Air Squadron: Lieutenant Commander Richard Calhaem RN, Lieutenant Commander Paul Robertson RN, Kapitanleutnant Steffen Volkwein and  POACMN Russell Adams

2014/15 Crew OF ‘RESCUE 177’, HMS GANNET SAR FLIGHT -  Lieutenant Commander Charles Fuller RN, Lieutenant Meirion Hammond RN, Lieutenant Angela Lewis RN and Petty Officer Aircrewman Michael Henson

2016  Crew of United States Coast Guard Rescue 6033 - Lieutenant John Hess USCG, Lieutenant Matthew Vanderslice USCG,  AMT2 Derrick Suba USCG, AST3 Evan Staph USCG

         Crew of HMS Gannet SAR Flight  R 177 - Lieutenant Commander Martin Lanni AFC RN, Lieutenant Richard Lightfoot RN, Lieutenant James Bullock RN, Petty Officer Aircrewman Alan Speed

2017  Crew of HM Coastguard Rescue 951 Inverness  Captain Simon Tye (Commander), Captain James Livitt (Co-pilot), Mark Lean (Winch Operator Paramedic) and Scott Sharman (Winchman Paramedic)

         Crew of HM Coastguard Rescue 912 Humberside Captain Peter Mackenzie-Brown (Commander), Senior First Officer Rob Backus (Co-pilot), Winch Operator Paul Bramley and Winchman/Medic Kate Willoughby

2018 The Hong Kong Government Flying Service

2019  Caernarfon Rescue 936: Captain Kate Simmonds, Captain Dave Kenyon AFC, Winch Operator Richard Taylor QGM and Winchman Paramedic Alistair Drumond