Military search and rescue operations in the UK came to an end on December 31, when the Royal Navy’s 771 Squadron ended the mission with its Sea King HU5s at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall, and the HMS Gannet SAR detachment at Glasgow-Prestwick International Airport, Scotland. The following day, January 1, Bristow Helicopters took over the role using Sikorsky S-92s, two of the type now being based at Newquay, Cornwall, replacing the Culdrose operation, while a further two at Prestwick replace the Sea Kings there.
The two Sea Kings at Prestwick will remain based there until February 29, but will only be undertaking training flights. Similarly, the 771 Squadron Sea Kings at Culdrose will continue to operate until March 31, when they too will be withdrawn.
Bristow has been progressively taking over UK SAR operations from the military after being awarded the contract by the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency to undertake the role throughout the UK until 2026. The company had completed replacement of the Royal Air Force SAR Sea King HAR3/3As last year.
The only UK military SAR operation now remaining is at Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands, where 1564 Flight uses two Sea King HAR3s. This role is also being taken over by a commercial operator, but under a separate contract to the UK SAR mission. As from April this year, AAR Airlift will take over Falklands SAR operations using two AW189s. This will finally bring to an end helicopter SAR operations by the UK military. Alan Warnes