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Oscar Charlie Legacy Continued in Helicopter Naming Ceremony

April 25, 2014

The legacy of Shetland’s much-loved search and rescue (SAR) helicopter was honoured today (Friday, 25 April) as Bristow Helicopters Ltd named their new state-of-the-art Sikorsky S-92 SAR aircraft ‘Oscar Charlie’ at a short ceremony in Sumburgh.

The original Oscar Charlie, a Sikorsky S-61N, was operated by the company on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) from 1985 until 2007.

During its 23 years of continuous service, Oscar Charlie was involved in numerous operations including the rescue of survivors of the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, the rescue of 14 crew from the foundering oil tanker MV Braer, and the rescue of all 60 crew from the Russian vessel MV Ludohods where Bristow’s crew set the enduring record of 32 survivors being rescued in one lift.

Today’s ceremony was attended by senior representatives from Bristow Helicopters and the MCA as well as the current Sumburgh SAR crew and local politicians and community representatives.

Samantha Willenbacher, Director of UK Search and Rescue at Bristow Helicopters, said: “We’re very aware of the affectionate way that Oscar Charlie came to be viewed by the community during its long years of service. That is why it made sense for us to carry forward the name to our new S-92 aircraft. We are honoured to once again be delivering the search and rescue service from these islands and we hope to see the new Oscar Charlie continuing that legacy for many years to come.”

Alastair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, who unveiled the new name alongside Sumburgh Chief Pilot, Jimmy Livitt, said: “The search and rescue service do a vitally important job across the country, but it is even more important in an island community like ours, where many people have to face the challenges of the sea on a daily basis. Over the years the search and rescue team in Shetland have provided a first class service which everyone can be proud of, it is important that they are given the right tools to help them continue to provide that service.

“I am also very pleased to see that the new helicopter will be named Oscar Charlie; it is a name that local people have come to trust and to associate with the rescue service. I know that the men and women who serve in the new Oscar Charlie will continue to maintain its predecessor’s reputation for reliability and excellent service.”

Bristow Helicopters Ltd set up the civilian search and rescue service in Sumburgh on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in 1983 and delivered the service until 2007. The company began delivering the service again in June 2013 after winning the Gap SAR contract from the Department for Transport.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd has also been awarded the full UK SAR contract and will continue to deliver the SAR service from Sumburgh under this contract until 2026.