Finmeccanica Helicopters has clarified it has compensated Bristow Helicopters for the late service entry of the search and rescue (SAR) variant of the AgustaWestland AW189.

The SAR model was due to have been fully certificated in time for the start of Bristow’s contract with the UK government to take over search and rescue services from 1 April 2015.

However, Finmeccanica Helicopters has yet to secure European Aviation Safety Agency approval for the full ice protection system (FIPS) on the 8.3t rotorcraft, hampering Bristow’s plans.

Bristow has opted to begin the contract with a mixture of new AW139s and Sikorsky S-92s as temporary replacements for the AW189 fleet.

Daniele Romiti, managing director of Finmeccanica's helicopter division, confirms the four AW139s performing SAR operations were acquired by Bristow “at a market price”. They will be retained by the operator when they transfer off the UK contract, he says.

The compensation element has instead focused on the retrofit of items to the AW189s, including the FIPS system and the reconfiguration of crew screens in the cabin.

Clarification - AgustaWestland has issued the following statement: “The four AW139s are an interim solution and were delivered - not acquired - as a contractually agreed upon contingency plan, as the AW189 SAR programme nears full operational capability according to customer’s expectations.”