Coastguard helicopter pilot suspended after crew pick up Orkney steaks

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A pilot on the Shetland Coastguard helicopter has been suspended after the crew picked up steaks from a butcher in Orkney at the end of a training mission.

An investigation has begun into the incident by the operators of Sumburgh-based emergency service CHC Helicopter at the behest of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

According to the butcher, Thorfinn Craigie, the helicopter landed in a field near his premises in Stromness on Monday to collect £400-worth of premium meat.

It was, Mr Craigie told a national tabloid newspaper, the second time a crew has stopped off to buy his produce.

He said: “They have done it twice. They normally land about two miles away at Kirkwall Airport and they wanted us to meet them at the airfield. But I told them that since I own the land behind the butchery shed, they could land there.

“One of the crew said that would be great because they have to train to do drops in rough areas. So they did it last month and did it again on Monday. They love our meat and came back for more. It was all good cuts. Fillet steaks and roasting joints of silverside.”

A CHC Helicopter spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that a pilot has been suspended pending the results of a formal investigation. We expect high standards of professionalism from all our employees and if we find these have not been met, we will take the appropriate action.

“While the aircraft was previously engaged in a training exercise, it was operating a non-revenue flight at the time of the incident in question.”

A CHC source insisted no public money had been wasted. “The aircraft had completed the training exercise and therefore all costs are met by CHC as they usually are during non-operational flying.”

In a statement the MCA said: “We are aware of an incident involving a Coastguard helicopter based at Shetland and have asked our contractor, CHC (Canadian Helicopters Corporation) to investigate as a matter of urgency. The MCA regards any misuse of these assets as completely unacceptable and await the outcome of this investigation.”


Add Your Comment
  • Ron Stronach

    • April 20th, 2012 12:19

    I think I know of an Orcadian butcher who will not be getting a third order for £400.
    perhaps he should have kept quiet.

  • Les Sinclair

    • April 20th, 2012 15:23

    Can I point out a horifying element of this report?

    Craigie’s is nowhere near Stromness – it’s in Tankerness!!!

  • Janet Pearson

    • April 20th, 2012 15:58

    Presumably the pilot will be accorded the same treatment another helicopter pilot was given when he landed on what was probably manicured lawn to visit his girlfriend, I believe he kept his job and is still flying. That presumably was taxpayer’s money.

  • L S Smith

    • April 20th, 2012 16:28

    No cost to MCA, no risk to equipment or people, extra practice. Why discipline someone for doing something that may harm the bureaucrats only and whose job requires him to risk his life while saving others?

  • Darren Johnson

    • April 20th, 2012 19:10

    Being someone who works in the maritime sector and reliant on the coastguard service in a time of need, I honestly cant see what the problem is here. Yes they picked up some meat but they also manage to train for a particularly difficult maneuver. I would say that they have exercised an amount of cost control that local an national governments could only dream of.


  • Ann Shuardson

    • April 21st, 2012 8:01

    How sad these BRAVE men are being punished. Surely they deserve some perks for risking their live to help others all there working lives.
    ann shuardson


    • April 21st, 2012 8:25



  • David Simpson

    • April 21st, 2012 15:36

    Give the guy a break. He didn’t take the helicopter out for a jolly, and was on his way home from work! Mean spirited employers.

  • bill jardine

    • April 21st, 2012 17:56

    “A misuse of assets”?
    God preserve us from jobsworths.

  • Bruce Stewart

    • April 21st, 2012 18:30

    A few facts….CHC own the helicopter not the UK government, as stated is was non operational flying after training so CHC carry the cost of operation, its hard to see how the claim of misuse could be upheld, what exactly was misused?..the steak!…CHC provide contract services to the MCA (coast guard) so presumably providing they fulfil there obligations like training beyond that they can do what they like!..presumably the aircraft was operated within the manufacturers specification and aviation standards, is was operational in so far it had a full crew in the area of coverage…so whats the problem?….they paid for the steak….the cargo wasn’t carried for personal profit or reward apart from health reasons, they contributed to the local economy, it was probably good PR to land a Helo near a built up area, the crew probably needed a break after training anyway, does the pilots contract say in fact say he can’t do what he did? this folks is all about perceptions…someones deluded perception that some kind of rort has taken place..what a sad world we live in when this type of non event makes the news headlines…the only real issue is the availability of the resource, I suggest it was…steak and all…

  • Steve Kerr

    • April 21st, 2012 19:05

    These men put their lives on the line countless times throughout their careers. Any right thinking individual will dismiss this story for what it is, sensationalist nonsense. No tax payers money was used and it is disingenuous of a certain national newspaper to imply that there was.

  • W Conroy

    • April 21st, 2012 21:36


    I mean c’mon… They stopped off on the way home from work!

    These guys do a dangerous job and deserve a nice meal at the end of their day for goodness sake. It sounds to me like not only weren’t these men hurting anyone with their actions but were doing extra training – some employers would love such devotion!

  • David Dawson

    • April 21st, 2012 23:05

    The landing site at Tankerness (not Stromness!) is only two miles from Kirkwall Airport – a mere hop – barely even a detour. Oscar Charlie’s crews regularly put their lives on the line and perform among the most hazardous flying ops in the country.
    It never fails to astound me when self-righteous observers leap on to the moral bandwagon and snipe at what they somehow perceive to be wrong. In any case, CHC Scotia have stated that no public money was wasted – what’s the big issue then?
    Come on tabloid media hacks, CHC Scotia and other moral guardians of our nation’s resources – take a good look at the facts before rushing to make judgements.

  • Duncan Swainston

    • April 22nd, 2012 10:16

    I hope the next police man/woman who dares to stop their police car outside a cafe to grab a cup of tea or coffee during work hours will be immediately suspended too?

  • Ashleigh Barclay

    • April 22nd, 2012 11:54

    If the issue is cost to the tax payers then the police should not be able to use work vehicles to do their own shopping which happens on a daily basis. Yesterday when I was in tescos I seen two policemen drive into tesco’s in their uniform do their shopping and drive away in the police car which tax payers money pays for the fuel and vehicle. You do not see any of them being suspended.
    All the people involved in the coastguard work so hard to give the best they can I think its so wrong for people to pass judgement when they dont know the proper story. The coastguard save lives and make a huge difference to our community without a second thought or passing judgement on a situation, people should take a second to realise this before jumping to their own conclusions.

  • Colin Hunter

    • April 22nd, 2012 12:17

    Bloody jobsworths! I can’t see a problem. It was a training exercise combined with a bit of shopping for the canteen. Excellent use of resources in my book. Two birds! one stone! The man is to be applauded, not pilloried! There will probably be more money wasted on the “enquiry” than the few extra litres of jet fuel he used landing and taking off again.

  • Rachel Burns

    • April 22nd, 2012 15:33

    Every time I was in Tesco in the months leading up to leaving Shetland there was nearly always an on duty police officer there. What is the difference of them using a WORK VEHICLE to do shopping (even just a sandwich for lunch) than the Coastguard using theirs?
    How many people have a company work van the sneakily use for doing a ‘big shop’?

  • Claire Huntington

    • April 23rd, 2012 10:17

    This is shocking, I cant believe that he has been suspended,They are had working men who risk there lives for others and they where on a trainer exercise anyways and where they landed was a exercise and because he popped in to a butchers for some well earned steaks he is getting suspended its a joke. I have seen many people from the ambulances to police cars and coast guard go in to shops in the uniform using there vehicles to get shopping so how come this is so different from everyone else doing it. such a shame who ever it was that suspend him so be ashamed.

  • Robert Reid

    • April 23rd, 2012 11:48

    This is terrible! On their way back from a training exercise, they stop off to get food (probably for their station) – big deal! These men and women do a terrific emergency service, the envy of the world.

    CHC should stick two fingers up to ‘council/government pressure’ and say that it didn’t cost you (or your taxpayer) any money! CHC should re-instate the pilot forthwith!

  • G B Douglas

    • April 23rd, 2012 12:25

    Surely there are more important issues that this, if they did not put any lives at risk, were not showing off and did not deviate hardly from their course then surely this is worthy of a word in the pilots ear and nothing else
    What we don’t need when we clearly depend on the skilled and brave crews of these vehicles is to hamstring the operations by adding stress to the operatives.
    Shame on whoever made this a story in the first place

  • Dennis Leask

    • April 23rd, 2012 18:26

    I suspect someone has forgotten how to have a little fun in life.
    Come on CHC learn when to turn a blind eye.


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