Caernarfon Search and Rescue Helicopter Base marks milestone

The new civilian search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base at Caernarfon Airport has reached 100 taskings exactly two months after going live.

The base is operated by Bristow Helicopters Ltd on behalf of HM Coastguard and was the third of the new civilian search and rescue helicopter bases to go live on 1 July.

Chief Crewman Kevin Weller said: “Historically C Flight at RAF Valley has been one of the busiest SAR flights in the UK so we knew we would be busy from the word go.”

The base’s first tasking, a mountain rescue, came just eight hours after going live and the crew was ready to respond. The hundredth tasking happened on 1st September when the helicopter was called in to help with a medical evacuation. In the event it wasn’t needed on this occasion but shows the wide and varied nature of the role. 

Chief Crewman Weller continued: “The jobs we have been tasked to have been challenging at times, especially in the mountains in poor weather and at night. Some operations have involved us flying as far as Cardiff to the south and the Lake District to the north, but due to the speed and endurance of the S92, and the state-of-the-art equipment we have onboard, neither has proven too difficult.”

Between these taskings the crews have continued to train hard and work closely with other emergency services to make sure they are familiar with the new aircraft and onboard SAR kit.

Chief Crewman Weller added: “The transition from the military to the civilian SAR service has been remarkably smooth thanks to the support of other local rescue teams including mountain rescue and the RNLI and time they have taken to train with us and learn about the Sikorsky S92 aircraft. We are fortunate that our team also includes a lot of familiar faces who have worked in the area and with these partners for many years.

“Everyone at the base feels very privileged to be part of this team and we are looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

Bristow Helicopters, a UK limited company, was awarded the ten year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. By 2017, it will deliver the service from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.

Combined with the new bases at Humberside and Inverness which went live on 1 April 2015, the new civilian SAR helicopter service responded to over 200 taskings between April and the end of July. Adding this to taskings Bristow crews have responded to from existing HM Coastguard bases in Sumburgh and Stornoway this brings the total number of SAR missions the company has completed between April and the end of July to 324.

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