The civilian replacement for the distinctive RAF SAR helicopters operating from Moray are set to begin trials next month.
Familiar yellow Sea Kings operated by D Fight of 202 Squadron from RAF Lossiemouth will become a thing of the past in April 2015, when civilian operators Bristow’s take over the vital rescue role operating from Inverness Airport.
Bristow’s say that they are on track to take over duties with around 30 personnel operating new state-of-the-art AW189s from the new base, which they say is now almost complete and ready to assume ‘pre-operational’ activities from January 5.
While there was major misgivings over the decision to remove the military from rescue operations, Bristow say that the service they offer will be at least on the same level – with experienced former RAF and Navy pilots and crew employed by the company.
A spokesman said: “This is a service that people will rely on in a time of need. We fully understand the responsibilities that go with providing Search and Rescue in the UK and are committed to delivering a service that meets and exceeds the high expectations demanded.
“We will be introducing new helicopters, equipped with the latest SAR technology, resulting in unprecedented levels and quality of SAR coverage across the UK.
“Bristow Helicopters has enormous respect for the service that our military colleagues have provided over the last 70 years of UK Search and Rescue.
“Their legacy, heritage and experience will be honoured and carried forward by Bristow in the new contract.
“Our Search and Rescue service will be delivered by experienced crews with world-class skills that are trained, qualified and certified to coordinate and execute SAR operations.
“Our personnel will be drawn from a combination of Bristow Helicopters and ex-military personnel to develop continued best practice and we will ensure that vital local knowledge is carried over into the new contract.”