Norfolk air supremo to retire

Elaine MaslinA former RAF search and rescue pilot who helped set up and fly the region's air ambulance and Norfolk police's helicopter is to retire this week.Elaine Maslin

A former RAF search and rescue pilot who helped set up and fly the region's air ambulance and Norfolk police's helicopter is to retire this week.

Gerry Hermer founded and has run Sterling Aviation for just over 20 years following a career which saw him awarded the Air Force Cross as a pilot in the RAF.

Under his leadership, the Norwich airport-based firm was instrumental in setting up Norfolk's first police helicopter in 1990 and the East Anglian air Ambulance nine years ago, both of which he also acted as a pilot for.

Mr Hermer, who will be 65 this year and retires on Thursday, said: 'The most satisfying part of my career has really been being one of the principle instigators in setting up the police helicopter and the air ambulance.

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'I feel very proud to have been a part of that.

'But in terms of flying, the most satisfaction was from search and rescue offshore, getting people off ships.

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'I have also really enjoyed working with the crews in the air ambulance and police.'

Mr Hermer has been a pilot for 35 of his 40 years in aviation, only stopping flying in 2005 aged 60 due to regulation.

His career began with the RAF as search and rescue pilot.

Just after completing his basic training as a Flight Lieutenant, he was sent out to rescue crew who had abandoned a German ship.

It was a night where everything was against him, with snow and hail from low cloud, a pitch black night and rolling rough seas. He had to refuel twice, once landing on a rolling tanker, but still plucked one of the crew to safety and made sure the others were picked up by the tanker.

He left the air force, aged 38, having been based at RAF Coltishall.

Shortly after, he set up Sterling Aviation with one helicopter and four staff with the help of financial backing from two Norfolk businessmen in 1989.

It has gone on to buy neighbouring air charter firm Skydrift and in 2005 was bought out by the Longmint Group, an arms length holding company.

Sterling now has 12 helicopters, two aircraft and about 60 staff, tuning over about �7million.

Mr Hermer, who lives near Wroxham, said the firm had been sheltered from the recession due to its work being 82pc serving utilities, including a long standing contract with the National Grid to survey some 5,000km of gas and fuel pipelines fortnightly. The firm has a base at Droitwich and uses a contractor to cover Wales.

Have you got a business story for the Evening News? Call reporter Elaine Maslin on 01603 772575 or email

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