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Lee-on-Solent Starts Live Operations with New AW189 Search and Rescue Helicopters

March 31, 2017

The HM Coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base in Lee-On-Solent will start flying the new Leonardo AW189 helicopter for SAR operations from 1 pm on Friday 31st March.

The new £20 million AW189 helicopters are painted in red and white HM Coastguard colours, and operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited on behalf of HM Coastguard. The Coastguard base at Lee-on-Solent is the first in the UK to fly this new model of helicopter for SAR missions.

The transition to Bristow from the current operator at Lee-on-Solent marks the penultimate step in a staged transition from a mix of 12 military and civilian bases to ten Coastguard SAR helicopter bases in the UK.

Damien Oliver, Assistant Director for Aviation at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “We are excited to add these new AW189 helicopters to our Coastguard helicopter fleet. These are some of the most technologically advanced helicopters providing lifesaving services in the world today. The crews that will fly the new helicopters, and the engineers that maintain them, will continue to demonstrate the utmost professionalism and dedication to the work of saving lives here in the south of England.”

Russell Torbet, director of UK SAR at Bristow Helicopters Ltd. said: “We are very pleased that Bristow is returning to Lee-On-Solent which we previously operated on behalf of the Coastguard from 1988 until 2007. Our transition team has been at Lee-On-Solent since January continuing their training on the AW189 and preparing for this handover. They are ready to go.

“The existing Lee-On-Solent crews will commence induction and training with Bristow from the start of April to transition onto the AW189 aircraft type over the coming months. This has been a lot of work for everyone involved and we’re looking forward to introducing the AW189 and continuing this life-saving service in the region.”

The Leonardo AW189 is a larger, more advanced and capable aircraft than the AW139 version currently in operation at Lee-On-Solent. It is the latest generation helicopter in its category and is designed to meet long-range, high endurance requirements for search and rescue missions in the most demanding operational and environmental conditions. Over the next 18 months the AW189 helicopter will be introduced at Coastguard SAR helicopter bases at Prestwick, St Athan, Lydd and Inverness, as part of the £1.9 billion investment by the UK Government in this vital frontline emergency service that rescues or assists around 2,000 people a year.

In 2013, Bristow won the UK Government national contract to deliver SAR operations on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Seven of 10 strategically located bases took over the helicopter civilian SAR responsibility from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy in a phased approach throughout 2015 and 2016. The Coastguard bases at Lee-On-Solent, Stornoway and Sumburgh are set to become part of the UK contract by July 2017.

For further information please contact:
Maritime and Coastguard Agency Press Office:
02380 329401
Bristow Helicopters Communications:
01224 756186

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, beginning in 1971 at RAF Manston, and has flown more than 60,000 SAR operational hours in the UK and conducted over 15,000 SAR missions, during which more than 7,000 people have been rescued by Bristow 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