Split contract for Gap SAR
The UK Government has signed contracts with Bristow and CHC to provide helicopters for an interim search and rescue requirement, it has been announced.
In a statement by Mike Penning, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, it was announced that Bristow will operate SAR services from Stornoway and Shetland while CHC has been signed up to continue its operations from Portland and Lee-on-Solent.
Bristow will operate the S-92 while CHC is expected to continue use the AW139.
The contracts are expected to get underway in July 2013 and will continue through to June 2017. Both contracts will be managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Penning said work was continuing on the development of longer-term contracts to replace the failed SAR-H programme, which collapsed at the beginning of 2011. The 'Long SAR' programme will end the current military involvement in SAR allowing the MoD to retire the Sea King by March 2016.
Mike Imlach, director of Bristow, said: 'We are delighted to work with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to provide this important service from the Scottish islands.
'We will bring our expertise to this contract, developed in the UK between 1971 - 2007 with 11,500 missions. In addition, we currently operate search and rescue services in Norway, the Netherlands, and Trinidad.
'As we take over the service, Bristow will work closely with the current operator to ensure that staff eligible for transfer, achieve a smooth and seamless transition during this organisational change.'
CHC S-92s currently operating in Scotland are expected to move to Ireland for operations with the Irish Coast Guard (ICG). The first ICG S-92 - a new-build aircraft - was delivered to Shannon in late January and will undertake a five-month training programme before entering operational service on 1 July.
CHC is yet to comment on the Gap SAR contract.
Source: By Tony Osborne in London, 08 February 2012 - Rotorhub News (www.shephardmedia.com)
Photo: The first S-92 Irish Coast Guard (ICG) SAR Helicopter (Photo by Shephard Group)