That others may live. The history of the 751 squadron
The SQUADRON 751 has rescued more than 3000 people
The 751 Squadron “Pumas” (Esquadra 751) is a helicopter squadron of the Portuguese Air Force. It is part of Grupo Operacional 61 and it is located in Air Force Base No. 6 (Portuguese: Base Aérea Nº 6, BA6), Montijo, south of Lisbon. It operates the AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin. 751 Squadron motto is “Para que outros vivam” (That others may live) and their crews have rescued more than 3110 people since 1978.
Organized Search and Rescue services were created from the need that countries had to provide a Search and Rescue service, maritime and aeronautical, to all craft that enter their areas of responsibility. The existence of a SAR organization in a country creates a safer environment to the maritime and aeronautical industry, allowing the development of these industries and consequently their economic growth. Portugal, being a country with a long maritime history, has a long tradition in providing SAR services. The Portuguese Search and Rescue Region (SRR) has an area of 5 million square kilometers. The Portuguese SRR coincides with Lisbon and Santa Maria Flight Information Regions (FIR). SAR responsibility in Portugal is shares between the Portuguese Air Force, the Portuguese Navy and the Civil Protection National Authority, all working in cooperation.
The Portuguese SAR military operational control comprises:
2 Rescue Coordination Centers (RCC) in Lisbon and Lajes
2 Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCC) in Lisbon and Ponta Delgada (Azores archipelago)
1 Maritime Rescue Sub Center (MRSC) in Funchal (Madeira archipelago)
It is in this control structure that the 751 Squadron is included, with one AW101 Merlin alert helicopter in Montijo Air Force Base, one AW101 Merlin alert helicopter in Support Aerodrome nº3 in Porto Santo (Madeira archipelago) and two AW101 Merlin helicopters in Lajes Air Force Base nº4 (Azores archipelago). The Portuguese Air Force also provides other air assets to the SAR organization, including P-3, C-130, C-295, Falcon 50 fixed wing aircraft and Allouette III helicopters. Despite the large national SAR area of responsibility, the 751 Squadron has provided SAR support to neighboring countries, performing rescue missions in both Spanish and Moroccan Search and Rescue Regions.
The SAR crew in the Portuguese AW101 Merlin comprises:
- Pilot in Command – Directs, executes and plans all the flight related actions. As the aircraft commander, he is the ultimate responsible for all the decisions taken.
- Co-pilot – Directs, executes and plans flight related actions.
- Systems Operator – Directs and executes winching operations.
- Rescue Swimmer – Executes the recovery of the victims from either water or land, using the helicopter’s winch to be lowered into land or ships.
- Nurse – Evaluates and provides the needed health care to victims.
- If needed, a specialized medical team may be taken on board during any SAR mission.