Manston Airport, near Ramsgate in Kent, is once again to be a base for the nation’s Search And Rescue (SAR) service, following the Government’s decision to appoint Bristow Helicopters Ltd to deliver the service from April 2015.
Manston will join nine other strategically located bases across the UK. Bristow Helicopters will operate a total of 22 specially commissioned helicopters – the Sikorsky S-92 and the AgustaWestland AW189, each fitted with state-of-the art SAR supporttechnology. Two of the helicopters will be based at Manston, with an experienced crew with world-class skills, trained, qualified and certified to coordinate and execute SAR operations.
Charles Buchanan, Chief Executive of Manston Airport, said: “The announcement that Manston is once again to be part of the nation’s search and rescue capability is hugely exciting, and when combined with the KLM services starting on 2 April, is further recognition of the airport’s significance.
“We will be undertaking detailed discussions with Bristow over the development of their new facility for operating and servicing the two helicopters, to ensure that the service is in place to serve the public and maritime community of the South East, notably the busy Straits of Dover and coastline.”
Bristow Helicopters Ltd will create approximately 350 new jobs to support the contract. A transition agreement with the Ministry of Defence will ensure continuity of service and experience for military personnel transferring to the new operator.
The new aircraft have significantly improved capabilities to the SeaKing helicopters, which they will replace, including night vision, mission management and increased on-board medical capabilities.
Mike Imlach, Bristow Helicopters European Business Unit Director, added: “The award of this contract is a great success for Bristow Helicopters Ltd and a huge endorsement of our reputation for excellence in Search and Rescue. We are proud to be returning to our British heritage of providing world class SAR services in the UK.
“Bristow Helicopters Ltd knows the responsibilities that go with providing this service and we are committed to working in full partnership with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and ensuring a smooth transition process and the long-term continueddelivery of a world class SAR operation in the UK.”
Under the new contract, the company will operate bases across the UK, strategically located near areas of high SAR incident rates, with Manston being joined by new facilities established at Inverness, Prestwick, Caernarfon, Humberside, Newquay and St Athan. Existing facilities at Lee-on-Solent and Sumburgh will continue to be used, and the base at Stornoway will be refurbished.
The baselocations and equipment will allow the ability to immediately surge up to seven aircraft simultaneously to a single incident.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd has a long history of providing SAR services in the UK, dating back to 1971, when Whirlwind helicopters were replaced by Bristow S55 helicopters at the then RAF Manston. The search and rescue facilities at Manston ceased to operate in the 1990s.