Bishop Philip and chief pilot Mark Coupland.

Bishop Philip has expressed his gratitude for the hugely skilled, professional and courageous work of the helicopter search and rescue teams, on a visit to their Newquay base.

Bishop Philip met with Chief Pilot Mark Coupland and a serving crew, and was given a detailed tour of the operations centre and accommodation facilities, and an opportunity to see the base’s pair of Sikorsky S92 aircraft up close.

A year-on-year increase in the volume of emergency calls saw Newquay become the busiest base in the UK in 2018, with its crews flying as far afield as Wales, London, the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and more than 200 miles over the sea out to the South West. The team has now completed more than 1,200 missions since opening.

That trend has continued in 2019, with a significant volume of events in the water and around the coastline – from delivering premature babies to specialist hospital care, to the challenging rescue of those fallen from cliffs, stranded by rising tides and fishermen lost overboard during severe weather.

‘Unflinching commitment’

Bishop Philip said: “The commitment of these teams of rescuers is unflinching. Having the opportunity to meet them and learn more about their day-to-day work was of great importance to me.

“Looking at a map recording all their jobs to date, it is immediately apparent just how much the community here in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly owes to the SAR team, and how much safer we can all feel in the knowledge that they are there.

“It is also clear that much of the team’s work is related to the tourist industry, that is also so important to Cornwall.”


While Bishop Philip was at the base, one of the helicopters was called out to an emergency.

“Seeing and hearing about the highly technical approach they take to meeting and overcoming the challenges they face was inspiring,” he said. “As a community we are very grateful for their efforts, and I would like to give thanks to them for their dedicated service.”

Mark Coupland, chief pilot at Newquay, said: “Bishop Philip has a significant mission of his own, serving communities throughout the region in which we operate. We were very pleased to welcome him to the base and provide him with a breakdown of our operations and share details of some of the past year’s events.

Strong relationships

“He clearly appreciates the strong working relationships we have with other local emergency services including HM Coastguard Rescue teams, the RNLI, South West Ambulance, Cornwall Air Ambulance, Devon and Cornwall Police, and the Fire and Rescue Service.

“Our pilots, winchmen paramedics, engineering, stores and administration colleagues, and the national support staff who work in SAR across the UK, are enthusiastic and totally committed to their roles, and it’s that dedication which ensures we can uphold the highest professional standards and traditions of the service.

“Regular day and night training throughout the year ensures a truly efficient, co-ordinated response to all incidents.”

The Newquay base entered service on January 1, 2016, its aircraft taking over airborne search and rescue across the south-west from 771 Squadron, previously based at RNAS Culdrose.

HM Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter service is operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited on behalf of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.