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Phil Green

Pilot and radio technician.

Born: December 19, 1948; Died: February 11, 2014

Phil Green, who has died aged 65, was Scotland's original Helicopter Hero. A pilot who had already swapped the army for the North Sea, he jumped at the chance to captain the country's first helicopter air ambulance 25 years ago.

He went on to chalk up well over 2000 missions, often operating in some of Scotland's most remote and challenging locations, and helping to save the lives of trauma victims from a newborn baby to children mauled by dogs and the casualties of countless road accidents.

His extensive experience in the pioneering role also helped to establish helicopter ambulance services in Essex and Cornwall - something he could never have predicted when he left school in Wales at 15 to train as a radio technician.

The son of a fireman and a local councillor, he was born and raised in the Welsh capital, joining the army straight from Cardiff High School, signing up with the Royal Signals in 1964. After training and qualifying at the Army Apprentices College in Harrogate, he was posted to Cyprus.

Within days of arriving there, he had met Cathy, the woman who would become his wife. They married in Scotland and he subsequently spent several years serving in the UK.

The chance to embark on a flying career came in 1973 when he spotted an advert seeking army pilots.

He applied and was accepted, qualifying as a pilot in the Army Air Corps the following year. He had various postings, including to Northern Ireland and Germany, before deciding to leave the army and return to the UK following the birth of his first son in 1978.

The move led him into a job working in the burgeoning North Sea energy industry with North Scottish Helicopters, subsequently Bond Helicopters.

His first 12 months were spent ferrying workers to and from the platforms and he was based offshore with a helicopter for a period.

By 1980 he had moved on to work on the Northern Lighthouse Board contract, transporting keepers and their supplies to lighthouses around the coast.

In 1989 he was excited at the prospect of a new helicopter ambulance service being discussed and was delighted to be selected to pilot the aircraft.

Initially based in Dundee for six months, a short but successful trial period operating out of Inverness then saw it become based permanently in the Highland capital from the following year.

Captain Green was originally the sole pilot, based at Raigmore Hospital, and only able to provide a service on weekdays with no evening or weekend cover.

Yet even before the move north the helicopter had shown how crucial the service was in the remote and rugged Highlands when it coincidentally happened to be in the area when two women suffered serious spinal injuries in separate accidents.

The aircraft was able to divert to transfer each of the patients to ­hospital by air, saving them a long and potentially much more dangerous journey by road ambulance.

Subsequently the service was expanded to offer 24-hours-a day cover, seven-days-a-week, with a team of pilots and a permanent base at Inverness Airport.

Captain Green completed a range of memorable missions with the service, including the arrival of a baby boy. He was en route from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness with the expectant mum when he had to put the helicopter down in the mountains along the side of Loch Mullardoch, about 25 miles west of Inverness.

Though challenging terrain, he had a reputation for being able to manoeuvre his aircraft in the tightest of spaces and was able to land in the remote spot where the baby was born 10 weeks early, weighing just 3lbs 4ozs.

Not only was it a breech birth but the cord was around the infant's neck and paramedics had to resuscitate their tiny patient all the way to hospital as the pilot overcame worsening weather.

Other rescues included a farmer impaled on a fence post and so many road crash victims that any family road trip in the north of Scotland was inevitably accompanied by a long series of "I've landed here" observations as they passed the locations of accidents he had attended.

However he was gratified to be rewarded with the thanks of numerous grateful passengers who knew they owed their lives to the air ambulance crew.

He stayed with the service until retiring from flying single-pilot helicopters in 2008 and ended his career back on the North Sea beat flying Super Puma helicopters for Bond until 2012.

From around 2000, alongside his air ambulance duties, he also returned to flying with the army, supporting the regular force as a member of the Territorials. It was a particularly happy time for him and he enjoyed piloting army helicopters again, travelling all over the UK and into Europe from their base in Leuchars.

His other great passions included cars, motorsport and hillwalking, particularly Munro-bagging across Scotland.

His is survived by his wife Cathy and their sons Justin and Chris.

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

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