More than 500 search-and-rescue missions flown in the UK using two Sikorsky S-92s have demonstrated the type's ability to deliver the nation's SAR-H service from 2012, say officials from the Soteria consortium pursuing the deal.
Team member CHC has operated the aircraft from two UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) sites in Scotland since mid-2007 under a five-year interim deal, and is bettering a mandated availability rate of 98%, says Keith Mullet, managing director of the company's European operations. "We are hitting our targets and doing what we've been asked to do," he says. One of the aircraft recently passed the 1,000 flight hour milestone.
Also involving Thales UK and equity partner RBS, Soteria is contesting the SAR-H requirement with the AirKnight consortium, which includes British International Helicopters, Lockheed Martin and VT, and is offering Eurocopter's EC225. The rivals recently delivered technical submissions for the planned 25-year private finance initiative deal, with a selection scheduled for later this year and a contract award due next April.
The winner will be responsible for operating and maintaining an undisclosed number of aircraft for the coastguard agency, UK Royal Air Force and Royal Navy at 12 sites around the UK, and also on the Falkland Islands. It will also provide civilian aircrews and engineers for the service, and support the training of military personnel.
"We will work to a robust, value for money solution by applying hard-learned experience with the interim [MCA] solution," says Soteria bid director David Rae, who notes that the global fleet of S-92s has now passed a combined 140,000 flight hours.
CHC currently operates almost 20 S-92s, and embodied a Sikorsky-mandated safety modification on the entire fleet within a 40h period after an investigation into a civilian crash involving the type off Canada earlier this year. The MCA's two aircraft were returned to use within just 12h.