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Sumburgh Search and Rescue helicopter base passes thousand-mission milestone

February 13, 2020

The HM Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter base at Sumburgh has surpassed a major milestone – completing 1,000 missions since the civilian service began operating in 2013.

In 2019 alone, the base responded to 198 distress calls, culminating in 232 people rescued and 470 flying hours.

On average, the 31 crew members at Sumburgh attend 175 to 100 jobs a year. They can be involved in a variety of events and incidents, including winching people to safety from the sea and from boats, people falling from cliffs, injured walkers, road accidents, and hospital transfers.

The 1,000th tasking saw the crew – Captain Roger Sherriff, Co-pilot Pete Richardson, winch operator Rob Glendinning and winchman Marty Davis – attend a medical evacuation from an offshore facility in the North Sea.

Notable missions in the run-up to the 1,000th call also included the rescue of 15 people from a fishing boat at Vee Skerries, on the west coast of Shetland. The crew of the Coelleira made a distress call after running onto rocks and the Sumburgh crew attended, with support from the RNLI and the Lerwick Coastguard base.

All 15 of the vessel’s crew were winched to safety by the Coastguard helicopter team and were later transferred to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.

Capt. Stuart Cunliffe, Chief Pilot at Sumburgh, said: “Our team can be called out at any time to respond to a range of incidents, often in challenging conditions in some of the harshest weather the Islands and North of Scotland has to offer.

“Shetland is a unique and dynamic location, and the year-round training we undertake ensures we are ready to respond. In addition to our rescue role, we also provide vital support to the other emergency services, with island transfers a key part of what we do.”

In November 2019, the Sumburgh crew was joint recipients, alongside colleagues from Shetland-based Coastguard Rescue Teams, of the prestigious Department for Transport (DfT) Rescue Shield by Brian Johnson, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The team was recognised following its significant involvement in the challenging rescue of a teenager from the base of a 120ft cliff in Shetland.

The Rescue Shield is the highest national accolade awarded by the DfT to Her Majesty’s Coastguard teams which have performed the most outstanding rescue of the year. It’s the sixth time that Shetland-based teams have been awarded the shield.

The HM Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter service is operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

For further information please contact:
Maritime and Coastguard Agency Press Office: 
Public.relations@mcga.gov.uk
020381 72222

Bristow Helicopters Communications: 
alan.gorham@bristowgroup.com
01224 211045

About HM Coastguard

HM Coastguard is a frontline delivery and emergency response organisation which is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

HM Coastguard 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.

For further information please contact:
Maritime and Coastguard Agency Press Office: 
Public.relations@mcga.gov.uk
0203 8172222

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 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.