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Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: 02-10-2008

Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters  ?
Not sure about this - how will only having 66 military pilots allow them to train enough.
Mind you the RN is more likely to have more trained SAR pilots as they have to take some to sea, and the RAF don't
Quote
"A major shake-up of the UK's search and rescue helicopter service has been announced by the government.
The 24-hour service will be run by private consortium Soteria from 2012, from 12 bases across the UK.
This service is currently provided by the RAF and Royal Navy, plus civilian helicopters through the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
Soteria will provide new aircraft to replace the ageing military Sea King helicopters over a three-year period.
The contract is worth £6bn over 25 years and will see the number of military aircrew reduced from 240 to 66, with civilian aircrew making up the shortfall. "
"plans to use the Sikorsky S92 helicopter"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8506806.stm

The out going Sea King / S61 - has been a magnificent aircraft - it was flying when I flew - but sadly I only ever flew the simulator. and that was 37 years ago !!!
30 REPLIES
Community Veteran
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Not sure, but I think the old Seaking is the preferred airframe for SAR crew...... think I read/heard about it on local news, as we have MCA coastguard at Lee
Midnight_Caller
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Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Personally I would rather have the old Seaking and the military aircrew rescue me, that Sikorsky S92 helicopter looks like a peace of junk.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: 02-10-2008

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Bristows used the S61N for SAR - built in the USA by Sikorsky, whilst the Sea King was a shortened version with uprated RR Gnome engines and built under license by Westland - I went on a tour of the factory in 1974 when some were being built.
The problem is the rotor head is so expensive to maintain - it has a huge number of parts compared to modern heads.
I would have thought the S92 is just as good and probably better than the old Sikorsky S61, and it seems purpose designed for SAR work.
I'm not sure where they will be built - probably not enough for Westland's to set up a line.
From memory - the two civy SAR flights are Stornoway and lee on Solent. And the crews although civilian are mostly ex RN or RAF SAR crews, and every bit as good as the military crews, but probably a little older .
Does anyone know where John Prince is flying now - he was at Lossie and featured in the ITV series Rescue which was about the SAR flight at Lossiemouth, and the famous film of them going out to Piper Alpha fire
alanb
Grafter
Posts: 459
Registered: 24-05-2007

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Last year, a woman who had been diving in the sea near Dover nearly died from decompression sickness because they were unable to find a helicopter to fly her from Dover, to a hospital in Cambridgeshire, where doctors were waiting to give her treatment in a recompression chamber.
Farming out essential services, like this, to private business is never done to improve services. It is a way of limiting the amount of money that is expended on providing a service. I won't be surprised if people die because of this change.
Incidentally, the woman diver was saved by the Belgian Army, who were able to send a helicopter from Belgium to Dover to collect her and take her up to Cambridgeshire. It seems that it is not only Afghanistan where Britain needs more helicopters. Bah! I feel angry now!  Angry
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: 02-10-2008

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

I share some of your fears, but remember that the militarys  prime task is to rescue other military, and that if they were involved in a civil rescue, and a military aircraft went down, it would be diverted away from the civvy job.
Military pilots and crews cost millions to train - and they want to ensure they get them back if they can.
Also these days there are many more civilian ambulance and police helicopters available probably as many aircraft as the military have. But of course they can't winch or always work at night.
alanf
Aspiring Pro
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Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

On the other hand if the military are frequently rescuing civilians they will gain a great deal of experience which they will be able to use when the need comes to rescue military personnel.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: 02-10-2008

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

And that is the reason they do it. And presumably why the smaller number of military pilots will still do it.
The other thing that we need to remember is that much 'military flying' has in fact be done by civilian companies for decades.
Air works maintained and operated 705 squadron Hillers and Whirlwinds in the early 70's, with military instructors and students - I was one.
The Fleet Requirements Unit were operated at Christchurch by a civilian company as far back as that, to provide air defense practise for ships on work-up.  Helicopter training for all services at Shawbury use civilian aircraft, but flown by military pilots. I could go on.
I would imagine that the operational conversion unit for the new aircraft / aircrew will be run in the same way with a mix of military pilots, and civilian pilots who had previously been fully qualified military SAR pilots.
But as I said - I'm going to be watching closely what they do, as to me the SAR pilots are some of the best in the country, and arguably in the World and they are doing real flying much of the time rather than just practising.

And just checked on how old the Sea King is - designed in the late 1950's, so a 50 year old design.
British Sea Kings were mainly built between 1966 and about late 70's, with later marks being rebuilds of older aircraft.
As brilliant a design as it was - I think it should be allowed to retire in peace.
Midnight_Caller
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Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Ok that Sikorsky S92 helicopter:
01) Does not have a winch.
02) Does not have night camera.
03) Does not have a sun lamp.
04) Can not refull inflite.
[Edit]

The Sea King:
01) Does have a winch.
02) Does not have night camera, but thay do have night vision goggles
03) Does not have a sun lamp, ok I was wrong on that one.
Community Veteran
Posts: 3,486
Registered: 02-10-2008

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters


Oh come on - the S92 was designed for a multitude of roles, and one was SAR and it is inconceivable you would have an SAR helicopter without a winch.
The SAR version has a larger door at the front right side and facilities for a winch. Search the link below for winch.
Both night cameras, sun lamps can be retrofitted or built in at the factory.
A few years ago, I attended a UK Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers two day conference, on equipment fit on the then new police helicopters . I represented a radio manufacturer, but there were reps from TV camera, night sun, plus many others. And we discussed these very things.

I'm sure now that this contract has been announced all the equipment fits will be discussed in very great detail - and you can be sure Sikorsky will accomodate the customer !.
Now I'm not sure about inflight refuelling, I'm sure the Sea King can do it as it has refuelled from small ships without landing on, but I don't recall them using it much if at all. They hand on ships decks, oil rigs and in fields and a fuel bowser refuels them.
I can't think of any reason why in flight refuelling couldn't be fitted to the S92 if thought necessary.
And by inflight - what that means the aircraft is in the hover over ground not suitable for landing. Not the system used by the Jolly Green Giants when they flew the Atlantic.

http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/sik_s-92.php
pierre_pierre
Grafter
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Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

more news from Wattisham  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8507661.stm
Quote
A phased introduction at Wattisham and 11 other sites is to begin in 2012.
An MoD spokesman said Sikorsky S-92As, which will have a black and orange livery, are already used in search and rescue operations with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in northern Scotland.
The Soteria Consortium is made up of search and rescue provider CHC; Thales, which provides training services for the MoD; Sikorsky helicopters and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Midnight_Caller
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Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters


From here
From the photo it looks like inflight refuelling is possible.   Embarrassed
[Edit]
[quote="Helicopter operator questioned about repairs at safety inquiry"]
A Sikorsky S-92 transport helicopter owned by Cougar Helicopters is seen in this undated handout picture released March 12, 2009. A total of 17 people died when a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter — carrying workers to oilfields on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland — plummeted to the ocean and sank on March 12, 2009, while making an emergency return to the St. John's airport. Rick Burt, senior vice-president of VIH Aviation Group, the parent company of Cougar, expressed condolences to the families of the passengers and crew who died in the crash.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 02-10-2008

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

Indeed it does Gary.
I don't think the average SAR flight would benefit from inflight refuelling - but some - notably the Stornaway, RAF Valley, and RNAS Culdrose who go out into the Atlantic would clearly be able to go further. I'm not sure about the Irish SAR organisations equipment, but they would benefit from air to air refuelling.
I've not seen any photos of RAF aircraft refuelling helicopters ? - but clearly if it was thought worthwhile - they would do it.
alanf
Aspiring Pro
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Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

My immediate reaction to the above photo was that there must be a risk if the rotor chopping the fuel line from the tanker. Here is a video of a helicopter chopping its own receiving pipe.

W1ngD1ngs
Grafter
Posts: 215
Registered: 17-09-2009

Re: Private firm to run search and rescue helicopters

I can remember Bristows from my tours in the Falklands, whatever happened to them:
Quote -Helicopter Search & Rescue
Bristow Helicopters have been involved in providing full-time Search and Rescue (SAR) services for over 35 years and have held all of the UK Coastguard SAR contracts for 23 years. We currently provide the UK government with seven SAR equipped Sikorsky S-61 aircraft, the majority of which have full auto-hover, dual hoists and Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensors. Additionally, we operate an advanced SAR equipped 332L2 helicopter for SAR out of our base in Den Helder, Holland.
We have provided SAR services in all of our operating countries and regularly supply a dedicated SAR helicopter and crew to cover exploration projects in remote areas.
In the UK alone, we completed our 10,000th SAR mission late in 2005 and have flown in excess of 15,000 SAR hours rescuing nearly 7,000 people.
We train (via FB Heliservices, our joint venture company) all of the military SAR pilots and crewmen in the UK and look forward, during 2006, to extend this training expertise world-wide in all aspects of SAR operations.
Bristow and SAR have been inextricably linked for three decades and have won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Innovation for our technical developments in SAR.
Bristow and SAR are synonymous; we have more SAR operating experience than any other operator in the commercial sector. Search and Rescue IS our business. - Unquote  Huh