A ceremony was held at Humberside Airport on Thursday February 26 to mark the launch of the new civilian search and rescue helicopter service that will go live from April 1. Bristow Helicopters Ltd will operate the new service around the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard, progressively replacing previous SAR coverage provided by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Sea Kings.
The newly completed SAR base at Humberside will house two Sikorsky S-92s, which will replace the two RAF/202 Squadron E Flight Sea King HAR3s that have been providing SAR services from DST Leconfield, East Yorkshire. A ceremony was held at Leconfield on March 8 to mark the imminent end of military SAR at the base.
Bristow was awarded the ten-year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. It will deliver the service from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.
The first bases to open and go live on April 1 will be at Humberside and Inverness, Scotland. Bristow crews will deliver the UK SAR helicopter service with state-of-the-art helicopters, equipped with the latest search and rescue technology including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities. These will comprise eleven AgustaWestland AW189s and a similar number of Sikorsky S-92s. Each of the ten bases will have either two AW189s or two S-92s, while one of each type will act as a back-up aircraft and also be used for training.
The next two UK SAR bases, at Caernarfon, Wales, and in Kent, will go live on July 1, 2015, followed by St Athan, Wales, on October 1, 2015. Prestwick, Scotland and Newquay, Cornwall, will become operational on January 1, 2016 and the remaining three bases at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire; Sumburgh and Stornoway, Scotland, will follow in 2017. Alan Warnes