SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT Corporation and Bristow Group Inc announced the acceptance of an S-92 helicopter by Bristow Helicopters Ltd on September 8. The helicopter, configured for search and rescue (SAR) operations, was accepted during a ceremony at the Sikorsky facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The helicopter is the first new production S-92 to be delivered to the company for its UK SAR service contract, which it was awarded on March 26, 2013.
The contract begins in April 2015 and runs until 2026. Bristow Helicopters Ltd’s UK SAR fleet of 22 aircraft will include eleven Sikorsky S-92s, fitted with state-of-the-art technology, plus eleven AgustaWestland AW189s.
Under the UK SAR contract, Bristow will operate from ten bases across the U.K, strategically located near areas of high SAR incident rates. These include Inverness, Manston, Prestwick, Caernarfon, Humberside, Newquay, St Athan, Lee-on-Solent, Sumburgh and Stornoway. Operations will be introduced progressively, with the service scheduled to be fully operational across the UK by July 2017. New helicopters provided by Bristow will replace the RAF and RN SAR Sea Kings, together with helicopters operated by civilian contractors on behalf of the Maritime and Coastgyard Agency (MCA). The SAR Sea Kings will then be retired.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd has a long history of providing SAR services in the UK, dating back to 1971, when Whirlwind helicopters were replaced by Bristow S-55 helicopters at RAF Manston, Kent, and continuing more recently with the operation of S-61 helicopters working at four SAR bases, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Lee-on-Solent and Portland, until 2007. In 2012 the company was awarded the UK Gap SAR contract for Northern Scotland and, working in partnership with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, currently operates four SAR helicopters from Sumburgh and Stornoway.
In total Bristow Helicopters Ltd 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 the company’s crews and helicopters.