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Stornoway Search and Rescue Helicopter Base Marks Two Year Milestone as UK SAR Programme Ramps Up

September 09, 2015

The Stornoway search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base responded to 325 taskings in the two years since Bristow Helicopters Ltd resumed responsibility for delivering the service on behalf of HM Coastguard on 1 July 2013.

Reflecting on the past two years of operations, Chief Pilot Captain Craig Sweeney, said: “Since commencing operations we have had a steady stream of taskings to a variety of jobs from mountain rescues to maritime incidents. The jobs we have been tasked to have been challenging at times but nothing has proven too difficult for the new Sikorsky S-92 aircraft and the state-of-the-art kit we have onboard.”

Among the most memorable taskings for the 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.

As well as responding to taskings the crews have been proactively engaging with other emergency services including local mountain rescue teams, Coastguard and RNLI crews to make sure that they are familiar with the new aircraft and onboard SAR kit.

The Stornoway base has also been instrumental in Bristow’s preparations for assuming responsibility for the wider SAR helicopter service by hosting SAR mission training. Bristow Helicopters, a UK limited company, was awarded the ten year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013.

Crews across three new UK SAR bases at Inverness, Humberside and Caernarfon in Wales responded to over 200 taskings on behalf of HM Coastguard between 1 April and 31 July 2015. A fourth UK SAR base went live at Lydd Airport on 14 August. By 2017, Bristow will be operational at ten bases, including the existing bases at Stornoway and Sumburgh.

For further information please contact the Bristow Helicopters Communication team on 01224 806 602 or via

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. Its job is to ensure that the threat of pollution from ships is managed and tackled if it occurs and the public can be rescued if they get into difficulties.

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 leading provider of 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

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