The HM Coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base in Prestwick started flying the new Leonardo AW189 helicopter for SAR operations on Saturday 1st July.
The new £20 million AW189 helicopters are painted in red and white HM Coastguard colours, and are operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited on behalf of HM Coastguard. The Coastguard base at Prestwick is the second base in the UK to fly this new model of helicopter for SAR missions, following Lee-on-Solent on the south coast, which began operating with this aircraft on 1st April.
Damien Oliver, Assistant Director for Aviation at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “The introduction of this new ground-breaking technology to our Prestwick base represents another very significant milestone. The two brand new AW189s to operate from Prestwick will be capable of working in all weathers and in the UK’s most challenging terrain. The investment in this new technology further underscores the importance with which the MCA views its lifesaving work.”
Russell Torbet, Director of UK SAR at Bristow Helicopters Ltd. said: “We are very pleased to introduce the AW189 SAR aircraft to the Prestwick operation. I have been incredibly impressed by the ethos of our crews and engineers who have been working very hard to transition the Prestwick base from the S-92 to the AW189 and want to take this opportunity to thank them all.
“This base has just reached the 500 taskings mark since going live on 1 January 2016 which shows how active this location is. In addition to that, we have been busy moving teams away to train onto the AW189 while backfilling those with our S-92 and AW189 transition teams who have been doing a sterling job supporting the operation.”
“In terms of the community, I’d like to extend my thanks for their patience while crews have been doing extra training since the AW189s arrived at Prestwick and have potentially created more noise in your area.”
The Leonardo AW189 is the latest generation helicopter in its category and is designed to meet long-range, high endurance requirements for search and rescue missions in the most demanding operational and environmental conditions. Over the next 18 months the AW189 helicopter will be introduced at Coastguard SAR helicopter bases at St Athan, Lydd and Inverness, as part of the £1.9 billion investment by the UK Government in this vital frontline emergency service that rescues or assists around 2,000 people a year.
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 took over the helicopter civilian SAR responsibility from the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy in a phased approach throughout 2015 and 2016. The existing Coastguard bases at Lee-On-Solent and Stornoway became part of the UK contract in April 2017, with Sumburgh set to follow on 1st July 2017.
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