UK confirms SAR transition plan

For as long as I can remember, the Westland Sea King has been the UK’s key search and rescue asset, flown by steady-handed crews from the Royal Air Force (Crown Copyright image of a HAR3A example below) and Royal Navy.

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The type’s days were already numbered, with its retirement from use by the UK military scheduled in early 2016, but US-owned Bristow Helicopters has now been confirmed as the civilian contractor that will assume responsibility for delivering the life-saving mission, using a mixed fleet of Sikorsky S-92s and smaller AgustaWestland AW189s.

As well as marking the end for the military’s provision using the current distinctive yellow Sea King HAR3/3As (RAF) and red and grey HU5s (Royal Navy – another Crown Copyright image follows), the move will also end SAR operations from bases at Boulmer, Chivenor, Culdrose, Leconfield, Lossiemouth, Valley and Wattisham.

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Many people will have had experiences with SAR Sea Kings – my most abiding memory is of being woken up while in a tent on Dartmoor during a Ten Tors competition as one was in the process of landing not too far away. Draughty doesn’t even come close to describing the experience.


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