US based group to buyout British rescue helicopters

US based group to buyout British rescue helicopters

LONDON - Reuters
US based group to buyout British rescue helicopters

Britain’s Prince Charles (R) and his son Prince William walk back to the Royal Air Force rescue base at RAF Valley in this file photo. REUTERS photo

Britain’s search and rescue helicopter services, whose pilots include Prince William, will be sold to United States-based Bristow Group in a 1.6 billion pound ($2.4 billion) deal that ends 70 years of military involvement in saving lives at sea and on land.

The Department for Transport said yesterday that handing the contract to Bristow, which already provides some services, would cut response times by four minutes to an average 19 minutes and increase the high-risk areas reachable within 30 minutes. “With 24 years of experience providing search and rescue helicopter services in the U.K., the public can have great confidence in Bristow and their ability to deliver a first-class service with state-of-the-art helicopters,” said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Under the new contract, 22 helicopters, comprising 10 Sikorsky S92s and 10 AgustaWestland AW189s, will operate from 10 locations around Britain when the new service is fully operational in 2017.

The Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Sea King helicopters had been in operation for nearly 40 years, the government said, and the time had come for a change in aircraft.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that existing military aircrew are likely to be redeployed elsewhere.