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Bristow Helicopters Launches a New Era of Search and Rescue

July 10, 2015

Bristow Helicopters Limited began search and rescue (SAR) helicopter services at Inverness and Humberside April 1, 2015, launching a new era of civilian search and rescue in the UK.

“The start of the UK SAR contract from Inverness and Humberside is a major achievement for the UK SAR team and Bristow Helicopters Limited. I would like to acknowledge everyone who has contributed toward this milestone. We know we have big shoes to fill as we replace the SAR service previously provided by 202 Squadron D Flight at RAF Lossiemouth and 202 Squadron E Flight at RAF Leconfield, but we have shown that we are ready,” said Samantha Willenbacher, director of UK search and rescue, at a launch ceremony. “We know this is a service that people rely on in times of great need; it doesn’t get more important than having a positive impact in the life of someone who is having a really bad day.”

The occasion was marked by special ceremonies at the two bases in February and March, which were attended by government dignitaries, representatives from the military and other search and rescue services, and invited guests who had been instrumental in preparing for Bristow’s UK SAR launch. Specially commissioned Sikorsky S-92s equipped with the latest search and rescue technology, including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities, are being utilized for the search and rescue missions at these bases. Bristow was awarded the 10-year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013, and will deliver the service on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) from 10 bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.

The bases are going live in a phased approach, with Caernarfon and Lydd starting operations in July, St. Athan in October 2015, and Prestwick and Newquay in January 2016. The remaining three bases at Lee-on-Solent, Sumburgh and Stornoway will follow in 2017.

Preparations are ongoing including the completion of new-build facilities at St. Athan, Prestwick and Newquay. Lydd will commence operations from a refurbished temporary facility. The first group of pilots and technical crew to get through the Managed Transition process with the military joined Bristow in April, and engineers, technical crew and pilots continue to receive training.

This article appeared in Bristow World Issue 2, 2015. View the full magazine here.