Two new state-of-the-art aircraft have taken to the skies, boosting the lifesaving search and rescue missions carried out by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA).
Equipped with multiple state-of-the-art sensors, the planes can spot a person in the water up to 40 miles away and can drop emergency locator beacons, communications and first aid equipment to those in danger.
Specially trained pilots and their crew will be on stand-by to respond to emergency situations around-the-clock – conducting wide-area searches around the UK coastline.
Operating out of Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, the new aircraft will also support HM Coastguard’s counter pollution activities by scoping out pollution in UK waters.
Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “From pulling fisherman from treacherous waters, to hoisting people to safety from the most remote locations in the country, MCA rescue teams carry out vital lifesaving work every day.
“The ground-breaking new technology aboard these new aircraft will be an invaluable asset in time critical rescue situations, ensuring our rescue teams are better equipped than ever to save lives.”
On average the current fleet of search and rescue helicopters (SARH) respond to seven taskings a day, with more than 1,600 people rescued around the UK last year.
Commercial & Programmes Director at the MCA Damien Oliver, said: “The Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s new aircraft will enhance HM Coastguard’s existing and future search and rescue capabilities.
“These Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft are a welcome addition to the MCA’s fleet of helicopters and planes and boast state-of-the-art cameras and sensors that can detect people in the water at considerable distance. The aircraft will also provide further assistance to other public bodies in the work that they do.”
The new aircraft will join HM Coastguard’s existing helicopter fleet which are stationed at 10 bases around the UK including at Newquay, Caernarfon and Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands. It is envisaged that the aircraft will each complete approximately 1,000 hours of flying every year.
Arnie Palmer, Director of 2Excel Special Missions, added: “At 2Excel, we are highly-skilled at quickly delivering complex concepts into capabilities and this contract with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency is a shining example of that.
“The work, which was completed over an eight-month period, drew on expertise across 2Excel, including our Capability Development team – from integrated design, manufacturing and installation of the specialist mission equipment – to training our crews to operate the aircraft.”
The Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft are equipped with electro-optical infrared search cameras and the latest multi-spectral reconnaissance sensors, which are coordinated through an integrated mission control system. Small stores, such as emergency beacons and flares, can also be distributed by the aircraft to survivors of a sinking vessel at sea.
These new services will deliver highly capable and cost-effective operations to the UK while also enabling other Government Departments to access the contract, instead of undertaking separate contractual arrangements for similar capacities.
The new five-year agreement with provider 2Excel Aviation Special Missions division also includes an optional two-year contract extension.