751 Squadron (Portugal)

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Esquadra 751
(751 Squadron)
Active 1978
Country Portugal
Branch Air Force
Role Search and rescue
Home base Air Base 6
Nickname(s) Pumas
Motto(s) "Para que outros vivam" (That others may live)
Lt Col João Carita
Aircraft flown
Helicopter AgustaWestland EH101

The 751 Squadron "Pumas" (Esquadra 751) is a helicopter squadron of the Portuguese Air Force.[1] 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.[2]



The 751 Squadron was created in April 29, 1978, operating four [3] SA 330 Puma helicopters. At the time, its Primary Mission was Search and Rescue and the Secondary Missions were Tactical and General Air Transport. The SA 330 Puma [4] operated had been previously employed in the Portuguese Colonial War and after the war end were adapted to a new role. These changes made the helicopters able to perform the required search and rescue missions in the Portuguese search and rescue areas of responsibility. To execute these missions a crew of five and a helicopter were in a 24-hour alert at Air Force Base No. 6. In the 1990s a permanent detachment, the Madeira Air Detachment starts operations from Porto Santo airport. This detachment also had a crew and a helicopter on a 24h alert to execute Search and Rescue operations, and has as its secondary mission the execution of tactical and general air transport operations.


In 2005 the 751 Squadron started to operate the AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin, the SA 330 replacement.[5] In February 11, 2005, the first two Merlins arrived at Portugal.[6] After the crew's conversion to the new helicopter, the AW101 Merlin started its operational activity in Air Base nº6 on 3 February 2006[7] and in Madeira Air detachment on the 22nd of the same month.[8] This aircraft upgrade allowed the 751 Squadron to be fitted with the latest helicopter technology, increasing the operational range from 200 NM to 400 NM. After the introduction of the Merlin in the Portuguese Air Force there were major changes in the Portuguese Search and Rescue assets. On 30 November 2005, the Azores Air Detachment was created,[9] operating from Air Base nº4 (BA4), from Lajes, Azores. This detachment comprises two helicopters and two crews, having one of the crews on a 24h permanent alert.

Since its activation the 751 Squadron has flown a total of more than 40,000 hours, 10 000 hours of those with the Merlins.

In Portugal's SAR organization[edit]

Commemorative patch of the 751 Squadron's 2500 rescues (Design: Miguel Amaral)

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.[10] 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.

SAR crew[edit]

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.

Assigned missions[edit]

The 751 Squadron is responsible for the following missions:

  • Search and Rescue (SAR)
  • Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)
  • Aeromedical Evacuation (AIREV)
  • Air Logistic Support Operations (ALSO)
  • Tactical Air Transport (TAT)
  • Fishing Activities Surveillance (SIFICAP)

Notable missions[edit]

SA 330 Puma[edit]

Performed with the SA 330, the assembling of a very large antenna (283 meters) in the town of Muge, the placement of the power lines to the village of S. Romão in Serra da Estrela, the installation of Bugio's lighthouse dome in 1981, as well as 163 missions during the Tejo river floods in 1979 and 1983 [11] totaling 255 flight hours, 1386 people evacuated and 11.244 kg of cargo air lifted. Support was also provided during the rescue operations following the Portuguese biggest train accident – in Alcafache – in September 11, 1985, were several injured people were transported to Viseu, Oporto and Lisbon hospitals. Search and Rescue missions include the winching of 15 sailors during the shipwreck of the ship "Angel del Mar" and the winching of 17 sailors from the ship "Bolman III", on January 10, 1994. On Christmas Eve of 2000, one SA 330 rescued 22 sailors from the ship "Coral Bunker" that ran ashore in Viana do Castelo. This was, until now, the mission where more people were rescue during a single sortie. VIP missions include the transport of Pope John Paul II on his three visits to Portugal.[12]

AW-101 Merlin[edit]

In 2010, the transport of Pope Benedict XVI in his first visit to Portugal.[13] The 751 Squadron was in different occasions, requested to provide support to neighbouring countries, such as Spain and Morocco. As an example, the support provided during the rescue of the sailors of the sunk "MV KEA", 180NM off the coast of Galiza, Spain, in March 2010.[14] The crew that performed this mission was later awarded, by SASEMAR (the Spanish agency responsible for the Search and Rescue services in Spain) the "Ancla de Plata" award, an annual prize that intends to congratulate crews and people that contribute to SAR or Anti-pollution missions.[15] In December 2011, the 6 missing fishermen from the fishing vessel "Virgem do Sameiro" were located and rescue by one of the 751 helicopters, north of Figueira da Foz. Their ship had sunk 3 days before and the fishermen had been adrift in a life raft.[16]


The 751 Squadron operates 12 AW101 Merlin helicopters in three different versions: 6 SAR helicopters, 2 SIFICAP helicopters and 4 CSAR helicopters.

Squadron leaders[edit]

  • MAJ/PILAV Fernando Caetano Mendes – August 1, 1978 – July 30, 1981
  • TCOR/PILAV Manuel dos Santos Nicolau – July 31, 1981 – May 16, 86
  • MAJ/PILAV Victor Manuel Lourenço Morato – May 15, 1986 – December 8, 1986
  • MAJ/PILAV Rui Mora de Oliveira – December 9, 1986 – September 23, 1988
  • MAJ/PILAV António Magalhães Cruz – November 7, 1988 / July 8, 1990
  • MAJ/PILAV Jorge Manuel da Rocha Fernandes – July 9, 1990 / October 14, 1991
  • MAJ/PILAV Luís António Flôr Ruivo – January 13, 1992 / September 13, 1992
  • MAJ/PILAV Joaquim Epifânio Santana Santos – September 14, 1992 / September 16, 1993
  • MAJ/PILAV Luís António Flôr Ruivo – November 29, 1993 / April 2, 1996
  • MAJ/PILAV Augusto Manuel De Sousa Brites – April 3, 1996 / May 25, 1997
  • MAJ/PILAV Vítor César Soares Vieira – June 16, 1997 / July 29, 1998
  • MAJ/PILAV Alexandre Paulo Menezes Figueiredo – July 30, 1998 / August 30, 2000
  • TCOR/PILAV João Tiago Cabral de Almeida Carvalho – August 31, 2000 / June 3, 2002
  • TCOR/PILAV Manuel Maria Mories Dionísio – June 3, 2002 / May 5, 2005
  • MAJ/PILAV Hélder Cardoso – May 5, 2005 / May 4, 2007
  • MAJ/PILAV Jorge Pina – May 4, 2007 / August 25, 2008
  • TCOR/PILAV António Moldão – August 25, 2008 / September 28, 2010
  • TCOR/PILAV José Diniz – September 28, 2010 / October 24, 2011
  • TCOR/PILAV João Carita – October 25, 2011 /


  1. ^ "Squadron 751 – "Pumas" (Pumas)". Portuguese Air Force. 13 February 2012. Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "751 Squadron Official website". emfa.pt. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Pumas 40 years 70 000 hours Walkarounds
  4. ^ "SA-330 PUMA helicopter in the Portuguese Air Force" (in Portuguese). Operacional. 16 October 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Farewell to the Puma Correio da Manhã newspaper
  6. ^ First EH-101 "Merlin" arrive to Montijo Air Force Base], MAIS ALTO official Air Force magazine March/April 2005
  7. ^ EH-101 Merlin helicopters start to operate – Público newspaper
  8. ^ Start of operational missions in Madeira – MAIS ALTO official Air Force magazine, Year XLIV Nº360, March/April
  9. ^ The Last Flight of the PUMA -in Jornal Expresso
  10. ^ Portuguese Air Force Search and Rescue Aircraft, in the Portuguese Navy official website
  11. ^ Floodings in Portuguese mainland – Protecção Civil
  12. ^ The Pope in Portugal Portuguese Air Force official website
  13. ^ Arrival of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Fátima Jornal Expresso
  14. ^ "The Rescue of MV KEA" MAIS ALTO official Air Force magazine, Year XLVIII Nº385 MAI / JUN
  15. ^ Air Force crew awarded in Spain in Público newspaper
  16. ^ Fishermen of "Virgem do Sameiro" found alive Jornal de Notícias

External links[edit]