The HM Coastguard air search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base in Inverness, operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited, has recently reached a milestone of 500 missions since the launch of the new civilian service on 1 April 2015.
Operating from a new, purpose-built base at Inverness Airport, the crews have delivered a vital, lifesaving service to the surrounding area by responding to taskings on-land, at sea and in remote, mountainous areas.
Russell Torbet, director of UK SAR, said: “Bristow’s heritage is steeped in search and rescue and our brave helicopter crews are currently delivering SAR all over the United Kingdom. The Inverness base has to date been one of the busiest, which is no surprise given its proximity to Scotland’s popular mountain ranges and coastal areas.
“I am immensely proud of our crews in Inverness, who have become a key part of the community and most importantly been instrumental in saving a significant number of lives over the past 18 months.”
As with the previous military service, the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) remains the tasking authority for all HM Coastguard search and rescue bases.
Inverness Chief Pilot, John McIntyre said: “We feel privileged to be serving the communities in and around Inverness and indeed further afield in Scotland. The engineering and support staff have laboured tirelessly to maintain over 98% availability of this critical service, allowing the aircrew to operate on 500 missions as far afield as Westray in Orkney and the Farne Islands in Northumberland, including many proud moments along the way”.
“As an Inverness man I’m also pleased to say that my fellow ‘Invernessions’ have made the crews feel incredibly welcome. We look forward to being an even bigger part of the community in the years to come”.
In 2013 Bristow won the UK Government national contract to deliver SAR operations on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Seven of 10 strategically located bases have taken over the helicopter SAR responsibility from the military in a phased approach throughout 2015 and 2016. The remaining three are set to become part of the new contract in 2017.
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