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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 July, 2004, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Woman pilot clocks up 50 rescues
Flight Lieutenant Kate Diacon
Fly girl: Kate Diacon is RAF Valley's only woman Sea King pilot
A woman helicopter pilot based at RAF Valley has clocked up more than 50 rescues since being based in Wales.

Flt Lt Kate Diacon is one of ten pilots on stand-by around the clock at the base for emergency missions across Wales or at sea.

She is only the second female to fly search-and-rescue Sea King helicopters from the base.

The previous holder of the job went to become the first woman in the RAF to command a squadron.

Fl Lt Diacon been a rescue pilot for four years since training on helicopters in 1998.

The 29-year-old has been on Anglesey, north Wales, for the past year after a three-year tour of duty at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

Women pilots are nothing new in the airforce but are still relatively rare - the rest of the five two-pilot Sea King crews at Valley are all men.

But Fl Lt Diacon said: "I'm one of the lads.

Flight Lieutenant Kate Diacon
Rescue mission: Kate has clocked up more than 50 from RAF Valley

"The boys don't treat me any differently and I certainly don't feel different. I would say that's general across the airforce.

"I've never had any problems from any of my peers. As long as you do the job, you are accepted and there is no difference.

"I have been here a year, I have probably done 50-60 rescues.

"It's a very busy flight at Valley. We get in involved in Snowdonia primarily, but go right down to the south of Wales and west of Ireland.

"We do hospital transfers occasionally and lots of boat jobs - people who have had heart attacks on ferries who need evacuating.

"It's a very good place to train, it's a very varied environment in which to learn, it's great."

Her commanding officer on the rescue team, Sqn Ldr Jon Stanley said: "Kate is very good.

"I don't see that her gender makes any difference, She's a good operator among a number of good operators."

Sdn Ldr Stanley pointed out that the first woman search-and-rescue pilot at RAF Valley was Nicky Smith, who in 2002 was appointed the service's first woman squadron commander.

He said: "It's nothing unusual to have two or three female pilots in search-and-rescue now, though we don't yet have any female winch men or radar operators."




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