Bristow Helicopters in the UK continues to experience delays with the introduction of the AgustaWestland AW189, and has no plans to operate the type on the national Maritime and Coast Guard Agency contract until all of its issues are sorted. The contractual requirement is for 20 helicopters, two at each of ten bases, and the company tendered a fleet of 22 to provide two spare helicopters for maintenance cover, one of each type. All along the plans have been for five bases operating the S92 and five with the AW189, along with the spares for a fleet total of 11 Sikorsky S92s and 11 AgustaWestland AW189s
The HeliHub.com news team monitors individual airframes as one of our central ways of identifying breaking news stories, and it was the recent registration of a twelfth SAR S92 that caught our eye (registration G-MCGY), just as the test flights of AW139s in UK SAR colours caught our eye back in November 2014.
The S92 is a proven type in the SAR world and Bristow were already operating at pair at each of Sumburgh and Stornoway under the “Gap SAR” contract when they were awarded the full national contract. The AW189 does not yet have sign-off for its full icing protection system (FIPS), and Bristow will not put them into service on the SAR contract as a result. We note that Bristow Helicopters does operate two AW189s for offshore rig support out of Norwich on a near daily basis.
The first of their “new” bases went live in April 2015 at Humberside with S92s as planned, and at Inverness with two S92s in place of AW189s – the first stage of the contingency plan. Looking ahead, Bristow is focusing on how to fly the contract without AW189s up to the time that they have the full icing clearance. In July 2015, a further two bases started operations with Bristow – Caernarfon with S92s as planned and Lydd with smaller AW139s in place of AW189s. The next phase will shortly be upon us in October, and St Athan will follow the Lydd example, starting with AW139s instead of AW189s.
Bristow Helicopters have confirmed to HeliHub.com that the bases going live in January 2016 will see Newquay fly S92s as planned, and Prestwick start with S92s rather than AW189s. As there are already ten S92s in service, along with the maintenance spare aircraft, these plans for the start of 2016 require a fleet of fifteen S92s, four more than the original plans. The recently registered G-MCGY is the twelfth S92, and thus a further three are expected to be imported before the end of this calendar year.
HeliHub.com asked AgustaWestland yesterday for a comment on the current position with the AW189 icing clearance, but they did not provide a statement before press time.
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com
Summary of current known position of British SAR bases under the national contract
– Stornoway – live with S92, under Gap SAR contract. Will transition to full contract in April 2017
– Sumburgh – live with S92, under Gap SAR contract. Will transition to full contract in July 2017
– Humberside – live with S92 from April 2015
– Caernarfon – live with S92 from July 2015
– Newquay – planned with S92 from January 2016
– Inverness – live with S92 from April 2015
– Lydd – live with AW139 from July 2015
– St Athan – planned with AW139 from October 2015
– Prestwick – planned with S92 from January 2016
– Lee-on-Solent – CHC operating AW139 under Gap SAR contract, Bristows to take over April 2017. Aircraft type plans currently unknown.
Photo by Graeme Lovell for HeliHub.com
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