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Civilian Search and Rescue Helicopter Service Marks Milestone

October 08, 2015

-Crews respond to almost 400 taskings in first six months-

The new civilian search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service has reported a busy first six months, 1 April to 31 September 2015, as crews across five new bases respond to almost 400 taskings.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd is operating the civilian search and rescue helicopter service for the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard. New SAR helicopter bases at Humberside and Inverness went live in April with the base at Caernarfon following in July. A fourth UK SAR base went live at Lydd Airport in August and the fifth has just gone live at the beginning of October.

The bases at Inverness and Caernarfon have proven the busiest with Inverness responding to 163 taskings from the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) in the first six months, and the Caernarfon base responding to 100 call outs in its two months of operations alone.

Combined with the two Gap SAR bases in Sumburgh and Stornoway which Bristow Helicopters already operates on behalf of HM Coastguard this brings the total number of taskings the service has completed in the six months to 567.

Taskings in the first six months illustrate the varied operations carried out by UK SAR crews. The very first tasking for the Humberside crew is cited as one of the most memorable by the base. They were called to rescue a 15 year old girl who fell some 200 feet down the cliffs at Filey sustaining serious head injuries. The crew swiftly evacuated her to hospital and she has since made an excellent recovery with no long term injuries. They have also been assisting fishing vessels and conducting medevacs in the Southern North Sea.

Meanwhile both the Inverness and Caernarfon bases have been largely focussed on mountain rescue operations due to their proximity to the Ben Nevis range and Snowdonia respectively.

Among the most memorable taskings for the Stornoway base is the rescue of the crew of the Irish fishing vessel, FV Iuda Naofa in January 2015. Arriving at the scene the helicopter crew transferred a salvage pump to the deck of the vessel in an effort to remove some of the flood water. A decision was soon made, however, to evacuate the crew as the pump was overwhelmed with water.

As the winchman was lowered to the deck the vessel capsized leaving him and the vessel’s crew in the water, and one of the fishermen very close to the vessel’s still turning propeller. Quick action by the crew identified the two fishermen in the water without life jackets first before recovering a third fisherman. The remaining two were picked up by a sister fishing vessel. The helicopter crew was given the Bristow Operational Excellence Award in recognition of their professionalism.

Samantha Willenbacher, director of UK search and rescue at Bristow Helicopters, said: “It has been a busy start for our new SAR bases with a high number of taskings over the summer months. The support we have received from local SAR partners who have taken the time to train with us and share their local knowledge has been invaluable in ensuring a smooth transition to the new service, as has the support of the military, airports and local communities in each area.

“We are proud to report that our fifth new SAR helicopter base went live on 4 October at St Athan and we are now working towards bases at Prestwick and Newquay beginning operations in the new year.”

Bristow Helicopters, a UK limited company, was awarded the ten year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. By 2017, it will deliver the service from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.

For further information please contact the Bristow Helicopters Communication team on 01224 806 602 or via bristow@webershandwick.com.

About HM Coastguard
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is a frontline delivery and emergency response organisation which is part of the Department for Transport.

Part of the MCA is HM Coastguard, which provides a UK-wide maritime emergency prevention and response capability which responds to calls for help by radio, satellite or the 999 service and coordinates maritime search and rescue (SAR) within the UK SAR region. The agency helps approximately 25,000 people each year with 21,000 incidents coordinated by its rescue centres.

About Bristow Helicopters Ltd
Bristow Helicopters Ltd is the provider of helicopter search and rescue (SAR) services in the UK, on behalf of Her Majesty's Coastguard, having been awarded the UK SAR contract and the Gap SAR contract for Northern Scotland. Bristow Helicopters has a long history of providing world class SAR services in the UK, beginning in 1971 and has flown more than 44,000 SAR operational hours in the UK and conducted over 15,000 SAR missions, during which more than 7,000 people have been rescued by our crews and helicopters. For more information on Bristow’s SAR operations, please visit www.bristowsar.com.  

Bristow Helicopters Ltd. has served the offshore oil transport industry in the UK for nearly 60 years. Bristow Helicopters Ltd. is an affiliated company of Bristow Group Inc.

About Bristow Group
Bristow Group Inc. is the leading provider of helicopter services to the worldwide offshore energy industry based on the number of aircraft operated and one of two helicopter service providers to the offshore energy industry with global operations. The company has major transportation operations in the North Sea, Nigeria and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and in most of the other major offshore oil and gas producing regions of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia and Trinidad. For more information, visit the Company's website at www.bristowgroup.com.