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May 11, 2015

Bristow has been providing search and rescue (SAR) services for more than 40 years

In addition to delivering search and rescue (SAR) services to its oil and gas clients worldwide, Bristow has been providing civilian search and rescue (SAR) services in the UK for more than 40 years. The SAR service has grown over the years with Bristow providing specific expertise -- experienced pilots, aircrew, paramedics, engineers and ground crew -- to conduct SAR operations safely and reliably.

Bristow began civilian SAR services in the UK in 1971, when military Whirlwinds were replaced by Bristow S55 helicopters at RAF Manston in Kent. At the time, hiring a private search and rescue company was an entirely new concept, and the English public was dismayed by the perceived abdication of government responsibility for rescuing "their boys." Despite flying nearly 700 missions and rescuing more than 100 people, within three years, in response to vigorous lobbying, the British RAF Coastal Command assumed the job for the next nine.

The company would eventually win back the business. Bristow commenced SAR helicopter operations on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) from Sumburgh Airport in 1983. The company held the contract until 2007 and secured it again in June 2013. Bristow conducted SAR operations at Stornoway on behalf of MCA from 1987 to 2007, and again in July 2013. From Lee-on-Solent, the company provided SAR operations on behalf of the MCA from 1988 to 2007, and from Portland from 1995 to 2007.

Bristow was awarded the ten-year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013 and the first two SAR bases went live April 1, 2015. Bristow will deliver the service on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.

Over the years, Bristow's SAR units were involved in some major incidents affecting the oil and gas industry, including assisting in the rescue efforts of survivors of the Piper Alpha disaster. The incident was followed by the Cullen Inquiry, which marked a dramatic step change in the oil and gas industry's approach to safety.

Bristow has been responsible for many industry-leading technological innovations, including the sea-tray, forward-looking infrared (FLIR), flat-panel hover stability indicator (HIS) and the dual hoist system. The SAR equipment the company has developed has become the industry standard, resulting in Bristow being recognized with the Queen's Award for Innovation for its technical developments.

Bristow currently provides SAR services in Australia, Canada, Norway, Russia, Trinidad and the U.K. Bristow's global scale and capabilities, commitment to safety and operational excellence, position the company well to expand SAR services to governments around the world.