The launch of the St Athan civilian UK search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service was marked today (Thursday 15 October) in a ceremony held at the new SAR base at St Athan airfield.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd is operating the search and rescue helicopter service for the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard. The UK limited company was awarded the ten-year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. By 2017, it will deliver the service from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.
The St Athan base went live on 4 October 2015 and has already responded to taskings from the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center (ARCC).
Bristow crews are delivering the UK SAR helicopter service on behalf of HM Coastguard with state-of-the-art helicopters, equipped with the latest search and rescue technology including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities.
The base was officially opened by Richard Parkes, Director of Maritime Operations at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), and was attended by representatives from the Royal Marines Base Chivenor 22 Squadron. Also in attendance were other search and rescue organizations and invited guests with whom Bristow and HM Coastguard have been working closely, and who have been instrumental in preparing the new service.
Speaking at the launch event Mr Parkes said: “HM Coastguard has been providing search and rescue helicopter services in northern Scotland and southern England for over thirty years. Today I am immensely proud to welcome our second Welsh civilian base to the service.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the outstanding work that the RAF at Chivenor has carried out over many decades, both inland and out to sea. We will ensure that their legacy is continued”
Samantha Willenbacher, Director of UK Search and Rescue at Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: “This is an exciting day for us as we officially mark the launch of the St Athan base. St Athan is the fifth of the UK SAR bases to go live and I am extremely proud of all Bristow personnel who have worked tirelessly in establishing this vital life-saving service from this location.
“I would like to recognize the incredible work which has been conducted by Royal Air Force No. 22 Squadron ‘A’ Flight in Chivenor. I would also like to extend our special thanks to all those who have helped us prepare for commencing operations including MOD St Athan, the Welsh Government as owners and operators of the St Athan site, other local emergency services personnel, the local community and in particular our colleagues at RMB Chivenor who have taken time to share their knowledge and expertise with us.”
Economy Minister Edwina Hart said: “I am delighted the Welsh Government was able to provide a fully serviced site ready for development which made St Athan an attractive proposition and helped facilitate this important investment that is set to create 30 high quality jobs.
“It’s good news the UK search and rescue helicopter service is now launched and joins the National Police Air Service on the Rotary Zone at St Athan Aerospace Business Park where they will both provide an invaluable service.”
Bristow’s aircraft and crews have been at the St Athan base since July 2015 making preparations for the service going live and conducting a raft of training exercises with local search and rescue partners.
The base is led by Chief Pilot Captain Olly Padbury, who has joined Bristow after 16 years with the Royal Air Force. His military career saw him fly search and rescue missions with the Sea King helicopter from RAF bases at Leconfield and Wattisham as well as Chivenor in North Devon where he was Flight Commander. He joined Bristow’s SAR team in July 2014 and has since been instrumental in the preparations for the civilian service going live, working closely with his military colleagues.
Captain Padbury said: “The whole team here at St Athan has worked incredibly hard to prepare for the base going live and we all feel very privileged to be involved in delivering this vital public service. For me it’s exciting to be returning to the region which I know well from my time at Chivenor. We’re all particularly grateful to the local community for their support and for welcoming us to St Athan. We have a superb aircraft in the AW139 and are committed to delivering a first-class service to the public.”
About HM Coastguard
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is a frontline delivery and emergency response organization which is an agency of the Department for Transport. Part of the MCA is HM Coastguard, which provides a UK-wide maritime emergency prevention and response capability which responds to calls for help by radio, satellite or the 999 service and coordinates maritime search and rescue (SAR) within the UK SAR region. The agency helps approximately 25,000 people each year with 21,000 incidents coordinated by its rescue centers.
About Bristow Helicopters Ltd
Bristow Helicopters Ltd is the provider of helicopter search and rescue (SAR) services in the UK, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Coastguard, having been awarded the UK SAR contract and the Gap SAR contract for Northern Scotland. Bristow Helicopters has a long history of providing world class SAR services in the UK, beginning in 1971 and has flown more than 44,000 SAR operational hours in the UK and conducted over 15,000 SAR missions, during which more than 7,000 people have been rescued by our crews and helicopters.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd. has served the offshore oil transport industry in the UK for nearly 60 years. Bristow Helicopters Ltd. is an affiliated company of Bristow Group Inc.
About Bristow Group
Bristow Group Inc. is the leading provider of helicopter services to the worldwide offshore energy industry based on the number of aircraft operated and one of two helicopter service providers to the offshore energy industry with global operations. The company has major transportation operations in the North Sea, Nigeria and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and in most of the other major offshore oil and gas producing regions of the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia and Trinidad.
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