Golf course flight legitimate, says RAF
THE RAF has furiously refuted claims that a Chivenor rescue helicopter wasted money by ferrying a dozen military personnel to a game of golf. Speaking to the North Devon Gazette in the wake of allegations made in a national newspaper on Thursday, Squadron
THE RAF has furiously refuted claims that a Chivenor rescue helicopter wasted money by ferrying a dozen military personnel to a game of golf.Speaking to the North Devon Gazette in the wake of allegations made in a national newspaper on Thursday, Squadron Leader Dave Webster said the sortie was "part of a perfectly legitimate exercise."It was claimed to be a misuse of taxpayers' money.He said the trip to a golf club near Woolacombe, seven miles from the base, gave crews an opportunity to practise handling both a fully loaded helicopter and to land it in a strange location."The flight commander said he could validate this for training purposes, both for a field landing and with a full load of passengers," he said. "After that they were on their own about getting back. Following the drop off the crew went on to do more search and rescue training before returning to base."The helicopter crews had to carry out a minimum of training each day - an average of two flights - in various situations and this simply formed part of that, he added.Sqn Leader Webster explained how Army personnel based at RMB Chivenor had approached the RAF to explain a senior officer was leaving after 39 years of distinguished service and they were laying on a surprise party for him plus a game of golf."The flight commander's decision was perfectly legitimate and also an opportunity to do something for the Army personnel, many of whom have come straight back from Iraq or Afghanistan," said Sqn Leader Webster."At all times the helicopter crew is on search and rescue standby and if a mission came up the helicopter would land, discharge its passengers and continue on to the rescue."In fact, the very day the story appeared in the national press, he said an RAF crew was carrying out just such a landing for real, with an urgent hospital transfer that required them to land in an unknown location in London's Regents Park.North Devon MP Nick Harvey -the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman who was quoted in the national newspaper story, said the whole event had proved to have a perfectly acceptable explanation."It's a pity that mischief was made of it. I regret having been dragged into it and apologise to those concerned," he said."I had been left with a picture of top brass being taken for a day's golfing at public expense."I gather it was an hour-and-a-quarter sortie and they had the passengers on board for eight minutes. I don't think there are any issues here which ought to concern the public.