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':
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 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.
Half of the new fleet will be built at AgustaWestland in Yeovil. The contract will have a significant impact on the UK supply chain, providing and sustaining jobs and apprenticeships.
Under the new contract, 22 state-of-the-art helicopters will operate from 10 locations around the UK.
Ten Sikorsky S92s will be based, two per site, at Stornoway and Sumburgh in Scotland, and at new bases at airports in Newquay in Cornwall, Caernarfon in Wales and Humberside.
Ten AgustaWestland AW189s will operate, two per site, from Lee on Solent and a new hangar at Prestwick Airport, and new bases which will be established at St Athan, Inverness and Manston airports
All bases will be operational 24 hours a day.
The new contract will be managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in the same way as the existing contract that operates the Coastguard helicopter bases on the south coast and on the Western and Shetland Isles.
The deal for Bristow Helicopters to run the country's search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter service is worth £1.6 billion.
It ends ends 70 years of SAR service from the RAF and the Royal Navy SAR squadrons. It also spells the end of the use of Sea King helicopters in SAR work. It is not known whether Portland, Culdrose or Chivenor will be affected.
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.