Bristow Helicopters has restarted providing the SAR service from Sumburgh Airport in the UK’s Shetland Islands from Saturday 1st June. Bristow was the original holder of this contract from 1993, before CHC won it in 2007.
Over the last few years huge efforts have been put in to a new nationwide SAR contract with the UK Government handing over all SAR work to a commercial contractor for a 10+ year period, three quarters of the work being taken from the military. One particular consortium known as Soteria (based around operator CHC) was chosen as the “preferred bidder” but the whole thing fell apart when irregularities emerged and various statements were issued including this one from February 2011 concerning police involvement in the investigation of the way Soteria conducted their bid.
Having already reached the point of one “preferred bidder”, but with that bidder “named and shamed”, the Government had no option but to open the whole competition back up again with a new start date set at 2017. There is thus an interim contract – widely known as “Gap SAR” – which Bristow won the northern bases with four S92s, and CHC retain the southern bases with three AW139s. Bristow have now started to operate two S92s from Sumburgh, and will add a second pair at Stornorway from 1st July.
Bristow were also announced as the winners of the long-term contract – see our 26th March story Official – Bristow win UK SAR with ten S92s and ten AW189s
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