The base was the sixth purpose-built operational centre established as SAR became a civilian service, operated by Bristow Helicopters, in April 2015. Each new base represents an investment valued in the region of £7million.
One of 10 Coastguard bases strategically located around the UK, Prestwick provides vital life-saving support on and offshore around Scotland’s west coast, to commercial shipping and fishing vessels, ferries, and pleasure craft as well as land-based incidents including mountain rescues, missing persons and other medical emergencies.
Completing 500 missions in less than a year-and-a-half is a significant occasion for Prestwick’s dedicated teams of pilots and specialist winchman paramedics, winch operators, engineers and support staff, the majority of whom transferred to the new Coastguard SAR service from the former military operation.
Rob Seall, chief technical crewman, said: “As a new base, our focus has been on ensuring a smooth transition for the service. Reaching 500 missions in only 18 months shows how much demand there is for our support around the west coast.
“Bringing people home safely from search and rescue operations, dedicating ourselves to year-round training, and living up to the incredibly high standard that the UK SAR service has been renowned for delivering for more than 70 years means we are always busy.
“While we may not be as visible as the traditional 999 rescue services – the sound of an ambulance or fire engine passing by is more regular than the sound of rotors overhead. That’s because our missions are often undertaken in remote, sparsely populated and challenging areas where our work goes unseen.
“There are some key things the public can do to reduce the likelihood they will need our help – in terms of preparing themselves as well as possible before they venture out on land and at sea. Should something happen, providing us with accurate information when calling for our assistance is absolutely vital.”
The Prestwick SAR base has a team of 30, located at Prestwick Airport, south-west of Glasgow in Ayrshire. Bristow began operating the UK’s SAR service on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in 2015, after winning the tender in 2013.
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