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.

2021 Awarded to: Crew of 'Schooner 20' and Crew of 'Mako 27'

Crews Of CH47F And UH60MOn 5 September 2020, a massive and rapidly growing wildfire in California raged. With reports of 30 people trapped by the fire and facing a gruesome death, an immediate air-evac was required due to fire, smoke and debris making roads impassable.

National Guard aircrews from Stockton and Fresno were contacted by the California Office of Emergency Services requesting emergency assistance in evacuating trapped civilians. ‘Schooner 20’ (CH47) and ‘Mako 27’ (UH60) were tasked for the mission and aircrews prepared to execute a hasty night search and rescue in the middle of an uncontrolled, rapidly moving, extremely hazardous wild-fire.

While en-route to the Fire Traffic Area to conduct a rescue, aircrews reviewed the dangers they faced while conducting a highly complex and extremely risky night rescue in an area that was by now completely encircled by fire and smoke. Because of extremely poor visibility, unpredictable fire migration and dense smoke, permission to enter the Fire Traffic Area was initially denied. Relentless persistence by ‘Schooner 20’ and ‘Mako 27’ convinced the airspace control authority to grant permission to enter the rescue area. During the rescue, smoke, fire and night conditions required the use of NVGs.

Because ‘Schooner 20’ and ‘Mako 27’ launched from geographically separate locations, they did an in-flight link-up to coordinate their rescue plan. After agreeing to approach the rescue site as a flight of two, while approaching the rescue location, raging fire and dense smoke caused ‘Mako 27’ to lose sight of ‘Schooner 20’. Rather than abort the mission and abandon those trapped and facing a fiery death, the flight split, with each aircraft using different routes and pick-up locations. During split-flight operations, ‘Mako 27’ and ‘Schooner 20’ made radio calls each half mile to ensure they were safely sequenced and executing the mission. As the aircraft entered the rescue area, smoke obscured the terrain, fire was rampaging unchecked in all quadrants, and the aircrew were breathing noxious smoke. Imagine the aircrews surprise when they discovered hundreds of people, not 30 as expected, were clamouring for rescue. This was a scene straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

When the aircraft were on the ground, aircrew tirelessly triaged and prioritized evacuees, that included 21 moderate to severely injured. Unable to carry all evacuees in a single lift, the crews returned to base, quickly off-loaded evacuees, refuelled and promptly headed back to conduct additional rescues.

Upon their return to the rescue area, crews recognized conditions were rapidly worsening and loaded more passengers than allowed by regulation. The second rescue by ‘Schooner 20’ and ‘Mako 27’ consisted of 124 passengers, a stunning aerial achievement. In all, ‘Schooner 20’ and ‘Mako 27’ flew three rescue sorties through the most hazardous flight environment imaginable, while at the same time personally battling debilitating smoke inhalation injuries and active nausea

In the face of daunting environmental conditions and physiological hazards to aircrew, the gallantry and skill of ‘Schooner 20’ and ‘Mako 27’ saved 263 people and 16 dogs. All members of both crews are accordingly thoroughly deserving recipients of the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award

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  MALM David Edward Bullock GC (posthumously)

1981/82  Lt Cdr H S Clark 825 Sqn

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

1983/84  POACM John Stephen Coleman

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

1985/86  Lt 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  Flt Sgt Vaughan Dodsworth AFM RAF

1989/90  POACM S W Wright, POACM D S Wallace

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

1992   not awarded

1992/93  772 NAS Helicopter - Lt M I P Langley, POACM A Rogers, LACMN B Buggins

1993/94  Flt Sgt Chris J Wood

1994/95  The Crew of Rescue 169: Flt Lt  A Cooper, Flt Lt M Dennis, Flt Lt G Holmes, Flt Sgt P Trethewey

1995/96  Rescue 25 78 Sqn Falkland Islands: Flt Lt M Dennis, Flt Lt T Gear, Flt Sgt Larke, SgtS Labouchardiere

1996/97  Rescue 193 from RNAS CULDROSE - Lt B J Nicholas, Lt J M Collicutt, Lt 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 Sqn RNAS 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 Awarded twice:
      Crew of HMS Montrose
      Flt Sgt 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 Sqn RAF Lossiemouth

2003/04  Rescue 193 RN

2004/05  Rescue 193 (Boscastle)

2005/06  Rescue 193 of 771 NAS

2006/07  Awarded twice:
      The Crew of 'Rescue 901' 442 Sqn CAF
      Hong Kong Government Flying Service

2007/08  Awarded twice:
      HMS GANNET SAR FLIGHT 'Rescue 177'
      'BLACKOUT 26' 7 Sqn RAF

2008/09   Crew of "Rescue 193" of 771 NAS

2009/10   Crew of R902, 442 Sqn CAF

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

2011/12  Crew of Rescue 193 NAS: Lt Cdr Mike Luscombe RN, Capt Martin Roskilly RM, Lt Jason "Tom" Sawyer RN, Sgt Anthony Russell RM

2012/13  Rescue 912 103 SAR Sqn RCAF: Capt Aaron Noble, Capt Jon Groten, MWO Jeff Warden, Sgt Brad Hiscock, M/Cpl Mark Vokey

2013/14  Rescue 193 771 NAS: Lt Cdr Richard Calhaem RN, Lt Cdr Paul Robertson RN, Kapitanleutnant Steffen Volkwein and  POACMN Russell Adams

2014/15  Crew OF ‘RESCUE 177’, HMS GANNET SAR FLIGHT -  Lt Cdr Charles Fuller RN, Lt Meirion Hammond RN, Lt Angela Lewis RN and POACM Michael Henson

2016  Awarded twice:
      Crew of United States Coast Guard Rescue 6033 - Lt John Hess USCG, Lt Matthew Vanderslice USCG,  AMT2 Derrick Suba USCG, AST3 Evan Staph USCG
      Crew of HMS Gannet SAR Flight  R 177 - Lt Cdr Martin Lanni AFC RN, Lt Richard Lightfoot RN, Lt James Bullock RN, POACM Alan Speed

2017  Awarded twice:
      Crew of HM Coastguard Rescue 951 Inverness  Captain Simon Tye, Captain James Livitt, Mark Lean and Scott Sharman
      Crew of HM Coastguard Rescue 912 Humberside Captain Peter Mackenzie-Brown, SFO Rob Backus,  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

2020  Crew of Royal Air Force of Oman Rescue 01 - Ll Cdr George Thompson RN, Mulazim 1 Tay Mahmood, Wakeel 2 Jaw Yaqoob, Raqeeb Jaw Ibrahim

2021  Crew of 'Schooner 20' and Crew of 'Mako 27'