Budget Takes S & R

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Used for land-based search and rescue, the HH-1 Helicopter flew its last mission Friday for NAS Meridian. The move is in an effort to reduce costs while still maintaining quality flight training.

"The Navy is recapitalizing and they are finding ways to be more efficient and use that money to recapitalize, so it was a budget cutting move," said Capt. Dan Ouimette of Training Wing 1.

Lt. Rob Hall piloted the HH-1 helicopter during its farewell flight, while NAS commanding officer Capt. Jeffrey Dickman sat in as copilot.

But Meridian isn't the only Naval Air Station to lose Search and Rescue operations. NAS Corpus Christi and NAS Kingsville have also been scaled back.

"There other bases all around that are going away. Corpus Christi is going away. Brunswick, Maine, is going away. There will remain some SAR assets," said Dickman.

Without a search and rescue team, the question of safety for student pilots comes to mind, but the accident rate is very low. In fact, the training wing has not used the search and rescue helicopter in over five years for a downed aircraft.

In the event that search and rescue is needed, the National Guard in Jackson will provide support.