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New rescue helicopters 'will reach larger area of UK'

The Department for Transport has said that under the new contract helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK Search and Rescue region within an hour of take-off than is currently possible.

An RAF Sea King helicopter that will no longer be used under the new contract. Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

It added that, based on historic incident data, it is estimated there will be an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20 percent (from 23 to 19 minutes).

Presently, approximately 70 percent of high and very high-risk areas within the UK SAR region are reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes. Under the new contract, approximately 85 percent of the same area would be reached within this time frame.

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Background to Search and Rescue privatisation

A Sea King helicopter
A Sea King helicopter Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The plans to privatise search and rescue helicopters were laid originally out by the Labour government in 2006.

The plans were controversial, and designed to replace the ageing Sea Kings that were currently in use.

Soteria SAR was announced as the frontrunning bidder in February 2010, but a year later it was prevented from acquiring the contract due to several issues with the conduct of their bid team, as well as forming part of the coalition government's spending review.

Duke of Cambridge's base could be shut down

The Duke of Cambridge shows his father one of the RAF's distinctive yellow Sea King helicopters at RAF Valley on Anglesey
The Duke of Cambridge shows his father one of the RAF's distinctive yellow Sea King helicopters at RAF Valley on Anglesey Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire

Among the 12 bases from where search and rescue operations are launched is RAF Valley on Anglesey, where the Duke of Cambridge is based.

Under the contracts due to be unveiled tomorrow, the total number of bases is expected to be cut from 12 to10 although it is not clear which bases will be closed.

Assurances have already been given that the Duke will be moved to another part of the military rather than being employed by the firm that is awarded the search and rescue contracts.

Read: Government to announce sell-off of Search and Rescue service

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Govt to announce sell-off of Search and Rescue service

by - Deputy Political Editor

The government is set to announce that Britain's Search and Rescue service is to be sold off to an American firm.

Up until now, the operation has been run by the RAF, Navy and Coastguard Agency.

The firm will actually be awarded two contracts, because the service has been separated into two parts operating different types of helicopter.

An announcement is expected just before the stock market opens in the morning.

Tributes pour in for avalanche victim

Colleagues paid tribute to Flight Lieutenant Fran Capps, one of three RAF personnel killed by an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands on Thursday. The 32-year-old, originally from Dulverton, Somerset, had been in the RAF for 12 years.

Flight Lieutenant Fran Capps was an exceptionally dedicated Royal Air Force Officer and Logistician who was well known throughout the Service for her remarkable commitment, her joie de vivre and her utter professionalism.

Fran achieved success wherever she served most recently receiving a Chief of Joint Operations Commendation for her professional excellence, confidence and ‘can-do’ approach in Al Udeid. From Basrah to Kandahar to the Falkland Islands, Fran’s boundless spirit and energy has shone through.

– Group Captain Dominic Toriati, the Station Commander at Royal Air Force Odiham

Fran was an exceptional person toknow, having unbounded passion and energy and being loved by everyone on the Squadron. Her loss will be felt across the whole Logistics Community and wider.

– Officer Commanding Logistics Squadron, Squadron Leader Georgina Mews
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