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RNAS Culdrose to hand over Search and Rescue to American firm

By WBBev  |  Posted: March 26, 2013

RNAS Culdrose Sea  King during a training exercise in Newlyn.

RNAS Culdrose Sea King during a training exercise in Newlyn.

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MORE than half a century of search and rescue at RNAS Culdrose in Helston is to come to an end as an American owned firm moves in to take over the service.The Department for Transport has signed a contract with Bristow Helicopters Ltd to provide search and rescue helicopter services across the UK.

It marks the end of an era for the navy's Sea King helicopters which are being taken out of service in 2016 when 771 squadron hands over search and rescue to Bristow. RNAS Culdrose said the deal would not threaten military personnel who are being re-deployed to other areas. However, it was unable to say how many civilian staff would be affected.

The £1.6 billion contract means 22  Sikorsky S-92 helicopters will be based at ten locations around the UK, including Newquay airprort.The Government says the deal will speed up flying times to incidents by 20 per cent- from 23 to 19 minutes.

Major Dave Fielder at RNAS Culdrose added: "The majority of our 400 staff are military. We will still have 30,000 people in the navy, but some will be doing different jobs. In short we are going from search and rescue into other lines of work.

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"We are in our 60th year of providing search and rescue here. Sea King has been likened to the Lancaster and Spitfire aircraft - it is the end of the Sea King era and a tear will be shed as it goes. We lost the Harrier a few years ago, but we have new exciting roles coming in."

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11 comments

  • TheTruronian  |  March 27 2013, 1:14PM

    Don't trust any London based political party. Come May 2nd. vote Mebyon Kernow!

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  • rt1379  |  March 26 2013, 6:08PM

    like I keep saying ... Vote UKIP

    Rate   -4
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  • Catyfl  |  March 26 2013, 5:23PM

    Disgraceful! Can't someone get a protest going? I am too old to organise one but will gladly support anything that happens like waving a Packard, putting a sticker in my car etc etc.m

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  • TheodoreV  |  March 26 2013, 4:39PM

    It may be worth reproducing here the safety incident history of Bristows as listed by Wikipedia. It may pride itself on its current safety record but transport and rescue are two very different things. The military training and experience is unequalled in this area. Can a private firm compete? WIKIPEDIA: "Incidents 5N-ABQ, a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer Srs1, crashed on 4 April 1967 in Nigeria during a single engine approach. G-ASWI North Sea ditching - On 13 August 1981 a Westland Wessex 60 helicopter lost power to the main rotor gearbox, going out of control during the ensuing autorotation. The flight was carrying 11 gas workers from the Leman gas field to Bacton, Norfolk. All people on board were lost.[12][13] G-BJJR a Bell 212 that crashed with the loss of two crew on approach to the Cecil Provine in 1984. VR-BIG Aerospatiale SA-330J Puma 5 December 1991 in Mermaid Sound, Dampier, Western Australia, after a pick-up from departing LNG tanker in night VFR conditions, entered vortex ring state and ditched. Stayed afloat for over 2 hrs. G-TIGH on 14 March 1992 at 1950 a Bristow's Tiger (Super Puma) ferrying passengers from the Cormorant Alpha to the flotel Safe Supporter, lost altitude and crashed. Of the two crew and 14 passengers on board, one crew member and ten passengers were lost. G-TIGK on Bristow Flight 56C between Aberdeen and oil rigs in the North Sea. On 19 January 1995 the AS 332L Super Puma helicopter was struck by lightning. The flight was carrying 16 oil workers from Aberdeen to an oil platform at the Brae oilfield. All people on board survived. G-BJVX North Sea Crash - G-BJVX, a commercial Sikorsky S-76A helicopter operated by Norwich-based Bristow Helicopters, crashed in the evening of 16 July 2002 in the southern North Sea while it was making a ten minute flight between the gas production platform Clipper and the drilling rig Global Santa Fe Monarch, after which it was to return to Norwich Airport. The 22-year old helicopter was flying at an altitude of about 320 ft (98 m) when workers on the Global Santa Fe Monarch heard "a loud bang". No witnesses were actually watching the aircraft at the time, but some saw it dive steeply into the sea. A witness also reported seeing the helicopter's rotor head with rotor blades attached falling into the sea after the body of the helicopter had impacted. The accident caused the death of all those on board (two crew members and nine Shell workers as passengers). The body of the eleventh man has never been recovered. G-JSAR Eurocopter Super Puma SAR - ditched in the North Sea on 22 November 2006. G-JSAR was operated from Den Helder Airport in the Netherlands on behalf of oil companies, all on board survived unhurt. [14] On 4 July 1983, Bristow Helicopters AS332L Super Puma (G-TIGD) crashed on landing at Aberdeen. During the approach to Aberdeen from the North Hutton platform, a loud bang was heard, followed by severe vibration. A PAN call was made to ATC by the crew. Shortly before landing control was lost and the helicopter struck the runway heavily on its side. 10 of 16 passengers received serious injuries. A tail boom panel had become detached in flight and damaged all five tail rotor blades. The resulting imbalance to the tail rotor assembly led to the separation of this unit and subsequent loss of control."

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  • nickthompson  |  March 26 2013, 4:24PM

    "This government knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing, I am surprised that they did not decide even more money could be saved by scrapping OUR air, sea rescue service completely, knowing the way they think, after all loss of life costs them NOTHING."

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  • TheodoreV  |  March 26 2013, 4:22PM

    This Government, though sadly left a complete mess by the previous lot, have it would seem completely lost the plot. Can it not tell the difference between a public service and a private one? Is it so in hock to America and the oil interests that it has to jettison a well tried, reliable service, with over seventy years of invaluable experience of British waters, coast and rescue technique, that it is prepared to sell out to a Texan company, interested only in profit. I despair of this country's political elite, making soothing noises about "old helicopters reaching the end of their working lives" and "an improved service provided by Bristows". The unpalatable truth is that quite the reverse will be the case. In the longer term lives will be put at risk and it will cost more to do it. I hope there is a huge groundswell of public opinion against this move that makes them change their mind. Or shall we be told it is all cut and dried and there is no going back on yet another essential British controlled and run public service?

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  • TheodoreV  |  March 26 2013, 3:49PM

    Where was this little trick in the Lib/Con manifesto? Yet another essential service being exported and privatised. How does this company hope to make money out of rescuing people? Presumably it will charge the Government every time it does? How long before it seeks to save by charging the rescued? So how will the navy save? It presumably still needs helicopters and needs to train its pilots. In future it will miss out on valuable real-life situations, so there will have to be duplication without practical benefit. Nor will our essential armed services have the benefit of good PR or be rewarded by invaluable public support. Are they only to be available for killing people rather than rescuing them? This is a major and irresponsible public policy blunder. We in Penzance, to our cost, know what can happen to private helicopter companies, and what they see as their priorities.

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  • Mice470  |  March 26 2013, 3:30PM

    What most people forget is that the RAF and RN search and rescue were established to rescue the crews of ditched military aircraft not civilians.

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  • perransandy  |  March 26 2013, 1:42PM

    Only 2 search and rescue helicopters at Newquay. When the Boscastle floods happened they needed 7. Who will provide the other 5 when a similar situation happens.

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  • twofeetofsnow  |  March 26 2013, 11:26AM

    This is the worst thing the government has done so far, by selling to a business they have opened up the floodgates to profiteering. A business has to make money, I wonder how they'll charge people for a cliff rescue or how much it will cost a share fisherman to be winched from a boat to go to hospital? Will this see the end of yacht racing or offshore powerboat racing once the insurance companies start costing in air rescue cover? The RAF, Fleet Air Arm and the Navy have done this job brilliantly for all this time, what are Bristow's qualifications and experience in British waters? As for quicker response times, I believe the Lizard is closer to the Bay of Biscay or does the South West coast no longer count?

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