Stornoway’s Coastguard search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter base has officially transferred into the United Kingdom SAR contract, becoming the 10th and final base to enter the nationwide Coastguard SAR helicopter network operated by Bristow Helicopters on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
For the past four years, the Stornoway base has been part of the Gap SAR contract, awarded to Bristow in 2012.
Stornoway and its island sister base at Sumburgh, Shetland — which joined UK SAR in April 2017 — provide cover over land and sea radiuses of some 250 miles.
Stornoway SAR was established 30 years ago, in May 1987, and continues to provide vital lifesaving support to the fishing and other marine industries and the offshore energy sector, as well as to land-based incidents including missing persons and other medical emergencies.
As part of the transition to UK SAR, Stornoway is now host to two specially configured Sikorsky S-92A aircraft, which replace the two Gap SAR S-92 aircraft.
“This is a landmark year for Stornoway — celebrating our 30th anniversary, and now formally joining our colleagues as part of the UK’s overarching strategic search-and-rescue response team provided within the UK SAR contract,” said Chief pilot, Capt Ben Clarke.
“The UK SAR service has seen real investment including new bases in a number of locations across the UK, and we look forward to settling into our upgraded facilities later this year too. The arrival of our new UK SAR S-92A aircraft ensures we have the latest technology available to us when we head out on a mission.
“My teams’ focus is always on bringing people home safely from a SAR operation, being dedicated to year-round training, and living up to the incredibly high standard that the UK’s search-and-rescue service has been renowned for delivering for more than 70 years, from both military and civilian operations,” continued Clarke.
“Stornoway may be seen as a remote setting in the eyes of many people — but we are absolutely vital for that reason, as the provision of helicopter support to people living and working in and around the islands, is all the more important due to the location. We are proud to support our North West Coast and Hebridean communities, responding to a wide range of incidents from mountain to western Atlantic and assisting tourist, locals and professional mariners alike.”
“Alongside our colleagues throughout the UK, we rely on the public for their continued support, but also in terms of preparing themselves as well as possible before they venture out on land and at sea, and for providing accurate information when calling 999 for assistance,” added Clarke.
In common with its sister sites around the UK, the Stornoway base has a team of 30, including pilots, engineers, winch operators, winchman paramedics and support staff. The base is located at Stornoway airport, in the north-west of Lewis.
Bristow began operating the UK SAR helicopter service on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in 2015, after winning the tender in 2013.