First female RAF search and rescue commander – 090313 1800z


One of the Armed Forces top female aviators has recently taken command of the RAFs Search and Rescue Force.

High-flying 44-year-old, Group Captain Sara Mackmin, will oversee all RAF search and rescue operations across the UK and the Falkland Islands.

The appointment is Group Captain Mackmins latest groundbreaking move in a career that has seen her achieve a number of firsts in the RAF.

After serving in the Balkans flying Puma helicopters she became the UKs first female helicopter instructor and in 2000 was the first female to command an operational flying unit as a squadron leader.

In 2008 she repeated the feat as a Wing Commander.

Speaking after her RAF Search and Rescue Force appointment Group Captain Mackmin said:

I was delighted to be asked to command a force that makes a real difference to peoples lives on a daily basis and to be able to work with such a dedicated and professional cadre of people, both military and civilian.

She takes up the position as the UK military prepares to transfer the search and rescue service to the Department for Transport. She added:

I am in no doubt about the challenges ahead as we prepare to transfer the UKs search and rescue service to a new provider and look forward to helping ensure a smooth transition.

Group Captain Mackmin has served 3 staff tours with MOD and worked as the personal staff officer to the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff.

As well as being a search and rescue pilot, she also volunteers with the RAFs mountain rescue teams.

About the RAF SAR Force
SAR Force Commander
Group Captain Sara Mackmin MA BEng RAF

Mission Statement
“To generate and sustain a world-leading Search and Rescue capability, including Command Control and Coordination, helicopters and Mountain Rescue Service Force elements, to be a force for good and contribute to the Ministry of Defence’s mission”

The Royal Air Force maintains a 24-hour search and rescue service covering the whole of the United Kingdom and a large surrounding area. Whilst the service exists primarily to assist military aircrew and other personnel in distress, the vast majority of scrambles are to assist civilians who find themselves in difficulties, either on land or at sea.

RAF Sea King helicopters of 22 and 202 Squadrons operate from six UK locations. Further helicopters provide SAR cover from 2 Royal Navy and 4 Maritime and Coastguard Agency contract-operated bases, giving a total of 12 helicopter units around the UK. RAF Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs) are based at 4 locations in mainland Britain, each staffed by a core of 8 permanent staff members and supported by 28 part-time volunteers.

The Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre at RAF Kinloss tasks and co-ordinates all aeronautical SAR activity across the UK Search and Rescue Region, drawing from a wide variety of SAR helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and RAF Mountain Rescue Teams. The UK ARCC also detects and notifies emergency distress beacon alerts worldwide.

RAF Search and Rescue works closely with the civilian emergency services and has produced a technical handbook for anyone working with Search And Rescue helicopters. The booklet can be viewed or downloaded using this link to ‘Working with SAR Helicopters’.

All imagery is Crown Copyright unless specified.


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