England

UK civilian search and rescue service launched

Rescue helicopter Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption One of the civilian-run rescue helicopters that will be deployed from bases around the UK

The first of 10 civilian-run search and rescue helicopter bases has been launched, on the east coast of England.

The aircraft will eventually cover the coast from north Scotland to south west England and west Wales.

They are replacing the RAF and Royal Navy Search and Rescue teams, after a decision to privatise the service in 2013.

The first base is operating from Humberside Airport. Another base will start operating in Inverness, in April.

Further bases will start operating in July and October, with others being added in January 2016 and the handover will be complete in 2017.

A private company, Bristow Helicopters, will operate the Search and Rescue Helicopter service for the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard.

'Outstanding work'

The UK firm was awarded the 10-year UK Search and Rescue contract by the Department for Transport, in March 2013.

Sir Alan Massey, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's chief executive, said: "I am hugely proud that HM Coastguard has been entrusted with the UK's search and rescue helicopter service.

"For us, this is a continuation of the high-quality service that we have been providing in selected areas of the UK for the last 30 years.

"The RAF and Royal Navy have set the bar incredibly high, and I would like to thank them for their service and recognise the outstanding work they have done both inland and on the coast over many decades."

The UK Search and Rescue bases at Caernarfon and Kent will go live on 1 July, followed by St Athan on 1 October.

Prestwick and Newquay will become operational on 1 January 2016 and the remaining three bases at Lee-on-Solent, Sumburgh and Stornoway will follow in 2017.

Image copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Image caption The first bases to become operational will be at Humberside Airport and Inverness

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