Bristow's SAR helicopter service has enjoyed a busy first six months from April to September of this year, as its crews responded to almost 400 taskings across its five new bases.
The company has been operating from St Athan near Cardiff since October and Sikorsky S-92s have now arrived at Newquay and Prestwick, set to enter service in January 2016. The company is operating the civilian search and rescue helicopter service for the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard. Bases at Humberside and Inverness went live in April with another at Caernarfon following in July. A fourth location at Lydd commenced in August and then came St. Athan.
Inverness and Caernarfon have proved the busiest, with Inverness responding to 163 calls from the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre in the first six months. Caernarfon responded to 100 call-outs in only two months. Combined with the two SAR bases in Sumburgh and Stornoway that Bristow Helicopters already operates on behalf of HM Coastguard, the total number of taskings the service has completed in the six months is 567.
Director of UK SAR at Bristow Samantha Willenbacher comments: “It has been a busy start for us, with a large proportion of work taking place over the summer months. The support we have received from local SAR partners who have taken the time to train with us and share their local knowledge has been invaluable in ensuring a smooth transition to the new service, as has the support of the military, airports and local communities in each area.
“We are proud to report that St Athan is live and we are now working towards the bases at Prestwick and Newquay beginning operations in 2016. The arrival of the S-92s at these bases is an important milestone.”
Bristow was awarded the ten-year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. By 2017, it will deliver the service from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incidence.