THE Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team hosted a large helicopter training exercise at the weekend to prepare for a change in helicopters.

During 2015/16 all helicopter search and rescue (SAR-H) operations currently undertaken by the RAF and Navy will be taken over by Bristow Helicopters.

The Sea King helicopters currently flown by the RAF and Navy will be replaced with new Sikorsky helicopters and the distinctive yellow colour will disappear, to be replaced with the red and white livery of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Steve Owers, deputy team leader, said: "As the mountain rescue team often use SAR-H helicopters to rescue casualties and transport team members to remote location we need to train with them.

“We hosted a training event in Bishop Auckland at the weekend on land owned by Auckland Castle Trust.

“Sixty team members from five teams spent the day with the Bristow crew who are based at Humberside Airport, looking at safety aspects of the aircraft as well as practising winching and the use of highlines.

“This was a great opportunity for us to train with the new aircraft before it becomes operational in April."