Bristow Helicopters has begun operating the first Leonardo AW189s assigned to its UK Search and Rescue contract on behalf of HM Coastguard from its base at Lee-on-Solent. The base had been served by smaller AW139s.
“Our transition team has been at Lee-on-Solent since January,continuing its training on the AW189 and preparing for this handover. They are ready to go,” said Russell Torbet, director of UK SAR at Bristow Helicopters. “The existing Lee-on-Solent crews will commence induction and training with Bristow from the start of April to transition onto the AW189 aircraft type over the coming months. This has been a lot of work for everyone involved and we’re looking forward to introducing the AW189 and continuing this life-saving service in the region.”
Over the next 18 months the AW189 will be introduced at Coastguard SAR helicopter bases at Prestwick, St. Athan, Lydd and Inverness, as part of the £1.9 billion ($2.36 billion U.S.) investment by the UK Government in this vital frontline emergency service that rescues or assists approximately 2,000 people a year.
In 2013, Bristow won the UK government national contract to deliver SAR operations on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Seven of 10 strategic bases took over the helicopter civilian SAR responsibility from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy in a phased approach throughout 2015 and 2016. The Coastguard bases at Lee-on-Solent, Stornoway and Sumburgh are set to become part of the UK contract by July 2017.