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Newquay named South West search-and-rescue base as Culdrose and Chivenor ditched

By GDemianyk  |  Posted: March 26, 2013

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Newquay will be the sole South West base for the search-and-rescue helicopter service after a US firm was awarded a £1.6 billion deal.

The privatisation, which ends 70 years of a service run by the RAF and Royal Navy squadrons, will see helicopters withdrawn from RNAS Culdrose near Helston in Cornwall and RMB Chivenor near Braunton, North Devon.

The search-and-rescue helicopter based at Portland, Dorset, has also been ditched as widely expected.

In their place, Newquay has been chosen as one of 10 locations around the UK where 22 state-of-the-art helicopters will operate from under the ownership of US-headquartered Bristow Helicopters.

It also spells the end of the use of icon Sea King helicopters in search-and-rescue work.

Half of the new fleet will be built at the AgustaWestland factory in Yeovil, Somerset, and the contract will have a significant impact on jobs.

While the changing shape of cover in the region is likely to raise concern over coastline safety, the Department for Transport said that under the new contract helicopters will be able to reach a larger area of the UK within one hour of take-off than is currently possible.

Two Sikorsky S92s will be based at Newquay. A spokesman added cover for the north coast of Devon would now be provided from St Athan in South Wales, where two AgustaWestland AW189s will be based.

Britain's search-and-rescue helicopter service employs the Duke of Cambridge.

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "This is a real vote of confidence in Newquay airport and the move of search-and-rescue from RNAS Culdrose will see significant investment in new facilities, new equipment and new jobs in Newquay and is welcome.

"The aim is to provide a world class search and rescue capability with the most modern of equipment that will improve coverage around British waters and make those who use the sea safer.

"As we the search-and-rescue operation goes through this significant change I want to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force in having providing this vital life-saving service around our island and look I forward to welcoming Bristow to Newquay."

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  • bethneyhoe  |  March 26 2013, 10:17PM

    This government needs to know the price of everything after the debts left by labour.

    |   -3
  • nickthompson  |  March 26 2013, 4:27PM

    "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."

    |   7