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 the rescue of 232 people over 470 flying hours.
On average, the 31 crew members 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, comprising 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.
Sumburgh chief pilot captain Stuart Cunliffe says: “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 have 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.”
The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter service is operated by Bristow Helicopters on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.