US FIRM Bristow said yesterday it had picked up a £1.6bn contract from the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide search and rescue helicopter services to the UK.
The contract will see Bristow operate 22 helicopters from around 10 locations in the UK when the service is fully operational in 2017.
The US contract win spells the end of 70 years of UK military involvement in Britain’s search and rescue helicopter operations.
By handing the contract to Texas-based Bristow – which already provides some services – response times of the helicopters can be cut by four minutes to an average of 19 minutes, the DfT said.
It will also increase the areas reachable by helicopter within 30 minutes.
“With 24 years of experience providing search and rescue helicopter services in the UK, 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 yesterday.
It is thought that helicopter pilot Prince William, who is due to end his search-and-rescue tour this year, will not be directly impacted by the changes.
The contract is expected to generate around $2.5bn (£1.6bn) in revenue for Bristow, and the company will invest around $1bn in the project to deliver 11 Sikorsky S92s and 11 AgustaWestland AW189s to the UK.