Helicopters operating on behalf of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency carried out 2,594 civilian search and rescue (SAR) missions in the year ending March 2017, according to a report released by the Department of Transport on 14 June. The tally is a 54-per-cent increase on the previous year, which the Department said is due to bases still opening during the 2015/16 period as part of the process to transition to a new, unified contract with Bristow.
On average, SAR helicopters across the UK responded to seven taskings a day, and the busiest base during the year was Caernarfon, which handled 344 taskings. Prestwick claimed a close second with 342 call-outs. The least busy bases were Portland and Stornoway, responding to 123 taskings each. The base in Portland is due to close on 30 June 2017.
Of all taskings, 1,542 (59 per cent) were rescue or recovery missions. The Sumburgh base had the highest proportion of rescue or recovery shouts (87 per cent), with the majority taking place out at sea. The period saw the helicopter fleet complete 560 search missions, 309 pre-arranged transfers and support missions. Overall, there was an even split between land and sea-based missions, with 49 per cent occurring on land, 34 per cent in coastal waters and 18 per cent more than three miles (five kilometres) from shore.
The summer period had more taskings compared to other seasons. This is likely to be due to greater leisure activity, said the Department. In August 2016, SAR helicopters responded to 372 taskings – the highest monthly number during the period covered.
The SAR helicopter services completed around 70 per cent of all taskings, said the Department, including eight per cent of missions that were completed with nothing found. Stood-down taskings accounted for just over a quarter of all call-outs.
Read the full report here.