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.


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



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

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

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