St Athan’s UK HM Coastguard SAR helicopter base’s two new Leonardo AW189s completed their first flights for the service on 24 September, replacing two AW139s.
Both helicopters are operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited on behalf of the UK Coastguard, costing around £20 million.
The St Athan base is the fourth in the UK to fly this model of helicopter, which meets the Coastguard requirements for SAR missions, including being long-range and high endurance. The other UK Coastguard bases that now fly the AW139 are Lydd and Lee-on-Solent on the south coast, and Prestwick in Scotland.
“These brand-new AW189s can work in all weathers, and across the UK’s most challenging terrain,” said Damien Oliver, Aviation Programme Director at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). “They represent a significant investment in new technology, which further underscores the importance with which the MCA views its lifesaving work.”
The aircraft were delivered by Bristow equipped with the latest SAR technology including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities.
Olly Padbury, Chief Pilot at St Athan, flew the final mission in one of the service’s AW139s but was excited to use the new aircraft: “The aircraft provide us with a range of technologies and capabilities which support our work in bringing people home safely from a search-and-rescue operation. Through year-round training, using aircraft of this standard gives us the best chance of living up to the incredibly high standard the UK SAR service is renowned for.”