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Major UK Search and Rescue Milestone Complete as New Coastguard Facility Opens at Lydd

July 12, 2018

The last purpose-built HM Coastguard helicopter base at Lydd, Kent, was opened today, marking a major milestone in the UK’s national search and rescue helicopter service.

Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, officially opened the base and witnessed the duty search and rescue helicopter crew returning from a training sortie, in a ceremony at the south coast aerodrome today (Thursday, 12 July).

Lydd is one of 10 bases strategically located around the country in close proximity to areas where search and rescue incident rates are high. The other bases around the UK are at Sumburgh, Stornoway, Inverness, Prestwick, Caernarfon, St Athan, Humberside, Lee-on-Solent and Newquay.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd operates the search and rescue helicopter service for the UK on behalf of Her Majesty’s Coastguard, having been awarded the 10-year contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013, representing a £1.9bn investment by the UK Government in the UK’s search and rescue helicopter service.

This service sees state-of-the-art facilities and helicopters, equipped with the latest search and rescue technology including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities, enabling crews to deliver a first-class helicopter service to the UK.

Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport said: “This new base at Lydd means helicopter crews and volunteers can continue to provide a vital emergency service, keeping people safe in the sea, on beaches and at other coastal areas in Kent and the South East.

“We have invested £1.9 billion to improve our search and rescue helicopter service, providing state-of-the-art helicopters which can fly faster and further than before – reaching people in need more quickly.”

Richard Parkes, Director, Maritime Operations & HM Coastguard for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter crews based at Lydd have been delivering an exceptional service for the past three years out of temporary facilities. It has given me great pleasure to see them now permanently settled. I have no doubt that the addition of the state-of-the-art facilities and the new AW189 helicopters will enable the team to continue to deliver a world class service that we all can be proud of.”

The opening of Lydd is the culmination of a significant national programme of investment which has delivered modern facilities which better-equip the 31-strong team of specialist pilots, winch operators, winchman paramedics, engineers and support staff as they respond to search and rescue incidents across the UK.

Russ Torbet, Director of UK Search and Rescue at Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: “Search and rescue plays a vital part in protecting people on land and at sea in the UK. Our crews are absolutely dedicated to doing everything they can to increase the chances of survival of anyone who finds themselves in a position where air rescue is needed.

“The new bases we have now constructed give our crews access to the best facilities in terms of being prepared to go out there and do that vital, life-saving work – from the standard of living quarters available to those on-base, ready to respond; to the operations and engineering control areas which are crucial to the day-to-day running of the service.

“At Bristow, we are incredibly proud to provide the search and rescue service on behalf of HM Coastguard and, in unveiling Lydd today, deliver on the commitment we made on award of the contract in 2013.

“We also want to recognise the work Westridge Construction, the local contractor appointed to create this site, has done in maintaining the standard which was set at the six previous new bases delivered across the country, as we officially begin operations from the new facility.”

At Lydd, part of the London Ashford Airport complex, two AgustaWestland AW189 helicopters are stationed and serve the south and south-east coast of England, as well as the English Channel when called upon.

The Lydd base is led by Chief Pilot Captain Neil Robertson, a former Sea King pilot whose 17-year career in the RAF saw him serve as Flight Commander at RAF Wattisham’s SAR unit.

Capt Robertson said: “Our team’s focus is always on bringing people home safely from a search and rescue operation. During day-to-day operations and throughout our year-round training programme, this new base ensures that we have the facilities and support we need to be able to maintain the incredibly high standards the UK SAR service is renowned for.”

Ends

For further information on HM Coastguard, contact the Maritime and Coastguard Agency press office on 020 381 72222.

For further information on Bristow Helicopters Ltd call Alan Gorham on 01224 253810 or 07834 157667.

Notes to Editors:

About HM Coastguard
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is a frontline delivery and emergency response organisation which is an agency 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 co-ordinates 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