Two Leonardo AW189 helicopters will fly into Scotland – to Inverness’ HM Coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base – to replace two Sikorsky S92 helicopters’ role in serving the Highlands, as well as the Islands further afield, as part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) airborne response.
The two Sikorsky aircraft have served Inverness since 2015, and the delivery of the new AW189s to the site marks the fifth and final location in the UK to fly this new model of helicopter for SAR missions, following Lydd and Lee-on-Solent on the south coast, St Athan in Wales and Prestwick in central Scotland.
Bristow Helicopters operates the Inverness base – which employs a team of 32 – as well as 10 other sites strategically located around the UK, from which it provides life-saving support for land-based incidents and the energy and marine industries. Bristow began operating the UK’s SAR helicopter service on behalf of the MCA in 2015, after winning the tender in 2013.
John McIntyre, Chief Pilot at Inverness, said: “The AW189 has been a great success since it was introduced into UK SAR in 2017, completing more than 1,200 missions operating from four bases – almost half of which have originated at our fellow Scottish base at Prestwick.”
“The AW189 has proven itself from marine to mountainous environments in SAR operations in the past two years,” McIntyre added. “Our year-round training, the quality of the aircraft and the technology on board are essential to maintaining our capability to bring people home safely from a mission.”
Aviation Programme Director at the MCA Damien Oliver said: “We’re proud to be leading the way in SAR, both in the air and on the ground. These Leonardo AW189 aircraft will enable us to continue to carry out even more vital life-saving missions across Scotland in an area where rescues can be very demanding on our crews and in difficult to reach locations.”