Glasgow & West Scotland

Civilian team replaces HMS Gannet search and rescue at Prestwick

Sikorsky S92 aircraft arriving at the new HM Coastguard base at Prestwick Airport Image copyright Bristow Helicopters
Image caption Sikorsky S92 aircraft arriving at the new HM Coastguard base at Prestwick Airport

The Royal Navy's HMS Gannet search and rescue helicopter service in Scotland has been officially replaced by a civilian-run team at Prestwick Airport.

Bristow Helicopters is operating the service from a new £7m base.

It was awarded the contract to run all 10 UK bases after a decision to privatise search and rescue in 2013.

HMS Gannet covered an area from Ben Nevis in the north, the Lake District to the south, east to Edinburgh and the Atlantic to the west of Ireland.

Samantha Willenbacher, Bristow Helicopter's director of UK search and rescue services, said some of the key personnel from the Royal Navy operation would be part of the new team.

Experienced crew

"We've actually got a lot of the crews from Gannet that have been providing the search and rescue service, so, we actually have a lot of that experience that has transferred over to us," she said.

"We've also got a huge amount of experience within the crews that we operate as well.

"While the colours of the helicopter might be different in the local area, the level of service that local citizens in this area receive, there'll be no change at all."

Bristow Helicopters will operate 10 search and rescue helicopter bases in the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard, a section of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The UK firm was awarded a 10-year UK contract by the Department for Transport, in March 2013, following the decision to privatise the service.

The first of the bases operated by Bristow, including Inverness, became operational last year.

The final UK base will be up and running by 2017.

'Outstanding work'

MCA chief executive Sir Alan Massey said he was "hugely proud" to have been "entrusted" with the service.

"For us the launch of the Prestwick helicopter base is an extension of the high-quality service that we have been providing in other parts of the UK for the last 30 years," he said.

"HMS Gannet has set the bar incredibly high, and I would like to thank them for their service and recognise the outstanding work they have done both at sea and inland over many decades.

"We will take their legacy forward with the utmost pride and care."

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