The crew of an RAF Sea King helicopter have been praised for their quick thinking actions after the aircraf had to make an emergency landing in Devizes when the pilot fainted.
The drama happened as the helicopter was flying at 2,000ft.
The co-pilot took over the controls and, together with the two other crew members on board, a winchman and radar operator, safely landed the helicopter in a field in between houses at Wellington Drive and The Bike School off the A361 at about 6.20pm on Wednesday, January 9.
The crew had put out a Mayday signal, RAF Search and Rescue alerted Wiltshire Police and officers were sent to the scene. The pilot was taken by ambulance to Swindon’s Great Western Hospital but was discharged that night.
The rest of the crew were taken to Devizes Police Station and made comfortable while they waited for another RAF pilot to arrive. The crew flew back in the helicopter sometime after 11pm.
The search and rescue helicopter was returning to its base at RAF Chivenor at Barnstaple, Devon, when the pilot fainted.
The RAF Chivenor crew had flown a young baby from Swansea to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and were 30 minutes into the journey back to their Devon base when the pilot became unwell.
A pilot at RAF Chivenor said the crew did well: “When the pilot fainted the crew were concerned for him and wanted to land as quickly as possible to get him medical attention.
“They did very well, especially as it was night time. They picked the nearest available field to land in.
“We may talk about this particular situation in training but it’s not something that usually occurs. The crew were quite shook up. We applaud the emergency services and how quickly they responded.”
It is understood the pilot is back at work but not flying until the results of medical tests are known.
PC Emma Reed, of Devizes Police, was one of the officers who attended the Sea King after it had landed.
She said: “It is unusual for a Sea King helicopter to land in Devizes but it was a safe and secure landing and the crew were OK.
“There was no panic. We went there to check on the welfare of the crew and everything was in order.”
The pilot and co-pilot were out of the helicopter when a paramedic from Great Western Ambulance Service arrived just before 6.30pm.
Rachael and Steven King, who live on the new Redrow estate at the former Bureau West site off Horton Road, were among householders who saw the helicopter.
Mrs King said: “My husband saw a helicopter had landed in the field opposite us and then we noticed five or six police cars driving from Horton Road and the dual carriageway.
“There was a lot of activity. I thought it was an exercise as it’s a good area to practise and it’s by the former police skid pan. “The crew picked a good location to land, it’s an open field. The main thing is that the pilot is safe.”