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There has been a major shake-up of the search and rescue services. Despite vigorous campaigns, operations will move out of Portland, Chivenor and Culdrose to a new base at Newquay Airport.
The service will be run by a private company, Bristow, which is based in the US. It will mean that from 2015, 22 new helicopters will operate from ten locations around the UK. The Dorset coast will be covered by a base at Leigh-on-Solent.
David Laws, MP for Yeovil, has today congratulated AgustaWestland on securing an important role in the delivery of a new contract which will secure jobs for the company, including at its Yeovil base.
The contract, details of which were confirmed today by the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, will see the company provide helicopters, equipment and technical support as part of a 10 year Search & Rescue delivery agreement.
The new agreement confirms that AgustaWestland will deliver 11 of its new generation AW189 helicopters as part of future Search and Rescue operations.
The AW189 model uses the most advanced technology and will replace Westland’s own Sea King model in existing Search and Rescue services.
Stephen Gilbert, Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay says it's a 'step forward in the development of Newquay Airport':
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.
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.
Commenting on today’s announcement by the Transport Secretary that Search and Rescue services will move from RNAS Culdrose to Newquay Airport by 2017, the West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, said:
The Department for Transport has confirmed the contract to run the UK's search-and-rescue helicopter service has gone to the US-headquartered Bristow Helicopters.
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.
The Sea King helicopter has been in service for over four decades, with a distinguished history with the Search and Rescue service as well as other assignments.
- The Sea King has operated in 10 wars and been involved in 15,000 rescue operations
- It has saved more lives than any other aircraft
- It is reportedly Prince William's favourite aircraft
Latest ITV News reports
The Search and Rescue service has been awarded to an American firm, bringing an end to seven decades of service by the military.