Ebook review: SAR: RAF Helicopter Search and Rescue – A Pilot’s Account by Jake Watson


Publication Date: January 21, 2014

From the dust cover: “Jake Watson is an accomplished military pilot, flying Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters for the Royal Air Force. In the course of his flying career he flew over three hundred rescue missions, day and night, in all weather conditions and in all environments. Jake left the Service in 2007 as a Squadron Leader, active front-line pilot, and the Commanding Officer of one of the six RAF Search and Rescue bases in the UK. This is Jake’s story.

Alone, in the dark, in a life threatening situation, injured, or just lost, is not a nice place to be. A bright yellow Sea King coming over the horizon might just be the thing to make your day a whole lot better.
The UK’s moors, mountains, coastlines and sea routes are patrolled and protected, day and night, in all weathers by the crews of the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue helicopters. On rescue sorties, the crew of four are given very short notice to use anything at their disposal, usually just themselves and the helicopter, to save life. The task could be a stranded yachtsman, miles out in the North Atlantic, an injured climber, crag-fast in a blizzard, a fisherman suffering a heart attack on the North Sea’s Dogger Bank, or a missing child in the Peak District. The possibilities are endless and the challenges often uniquely complex. It is a job that requires great skill, nerve and courage to face the unknown and the unpredictable. This book is an emotive, personal account of the missions flown by Jake and his crews. The highs and the lows, the heartbreak and the elation are all evident alongside the tenacious and professional approach in the story told behind each rescue mission. Take an enigmatic journey with Jake through the range of search and rescue sorties eloquently described in ‘SAR’.”

My Ebook review: I will start this review off by saying that I like flying in helicopters and have had a few opportunities to do so including being taken through a few minor ‘stunts’ on one trip. These flights all had one thing in common: they were in the summer on nice days. It is also true that I am a big fan of career ‘voyeurism’, I like to read about the experiences of people whose day to day is very different to my own, because I can almost, for a few moments at least, live vicariously through the author’s prose. So ‘SAR’ was a clear opportunity not to be missed.
We are served a behind the scenes look at what it takes to keep a SAR operation ready for action 24/7/365, what the crews are asked to do and how a safety net exists to help the unfortunate when they need it most. Importantly, from my perspective, we are introduced to the routine, the rules and to some extent the technical challenges; this gives depth and insight for the reader.
The author also helps us to see the human side of the work between life saving sorties, the cups of tea, occasional boredom and humour that are also a part of the work.
Watson has the sort of highly efficient writing style that one would anticipate from years of having to communicate precisely, quickly and efficiently sometimes highly complex information. This makes for a very pleasurable reading experience because the descriptions are so crisp and clear that I was transported to the mountains, I could almost feel the wind as sorties were described. What was palpable was the sense of teamwork, the training, the skill and the bravery of the crew as they push the limits to save lives.
If you want to read one book this year that makes you feel a huge range of emotions whilst opening your eyes to a world that few of us will encounter then ‘SAR’ would be my recommendation.
Did I enjoy it?: Clearly yes, fascinating, fabulously written, and sometimes deeply moving.

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