The first of three brand-new AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters, configured entirely for search and rescue (SAR), were welcomed at the MCA's new state-of-the-art hangar at the Lee-On-The-Solent airfield today. The helicopters will be used primarily on the south coast.
These helicopters are being provided under a service contract to the MCA by CHC Helicopters who won the interim contract to supply the service to the MCA from 2007 to 2012.
The interim contract provides for commercial search and rescue helicopter services from four civilian-operated bases - Sumburgh, Stornoway, Lee-on-the-Solent and Portland - for a five-year period from July 1, 2007.
The service will provide 24-hour coverage at Sumburgh, Stornoway and Lee-on-Solent, and will operate on a 12 hour day-time basis at Portland, in line with current cover. Two AW139s will be based at Lee on the Solent and one at Portland.
Peter Cardy, Chief Executive, Maritime and Coastguard Agency said:
"The MCA are delighted to be able to receive these new AgustaWestland aircraft as part of our strategy of utilising differing aircraft specifically for the varying coastline we enjoy in the United Kingdom.
"These new aircraft will be able to fly more quickly, and will be able to fly farther to people in distress at sea than those currently in use.
"They have been specifically kitted with various items of advanced technical equipment, including an on board automatic identification system (AIS), specifically designed for the challenges of search and rescue in the 21st Century."
The AW139s are in use on a variety of commercial duties around the world, proving their operational effectiveness and reliability.
The aircraft are also slated to be used in a search and rescue role in Spain, with UAE, Australia, Italian and Japanese authorities also intending to use these aircraft for SAR purposes.
Mr. Cardy continued
"We look forward to working with CHC who are fulfilling this key role and taking search and rescue work into a new era, and can bring their wealth of experience of search and rescue and emergency helicopter services in Ireland, Africa, Australia and Norway to the UK.
CHC's UK SAR contract manager Ian McLuskie said:
"The introduction of the AW139s represents the latest key phase in our work with the MCA to introduce new technology to civilian helicopter search and rescue work in the UK and provide an effective, efficient service that reflects modern-day needs."
MCA Welcome New AgustaWestland 139 Helicopters to Search And Rescue Fleet