Air Hanson has been awarded a ten year contract to operate a Sikorsky S-76 on behalf of the UK's Royal Family. The leased helicopter will be based at Air Hanson's Blackbushe, Surrey, headquarters and will replace two Westland Wessex HCC4s operated by the Royal Air Force's 32Sqn since 1969.

Some £4.6 million ($7.6 million) had been budgeted for operation of the two Wessex in 1997-8, and privatised operation of the single S-76 is expected to save around £1.8 million a year. Air Hanson will provide hangarage and maintenance, but pilots are to be supplied by the Royal travel office.

Air Hanson will begin operations in April in the interim with a S-76B, while Sikorsky completes a new S-76C+ for delivery in the fourth quarter.

Source: Flight International