The big yellow bird has been a welcome site to many. It has often meant the difference between life and death but they are aging and progress is synonymous with change.
Privatization (the transferring of government run services to privately owned enterprizes) in the United Kingdom continues and the latest to go through the process are the search and rescue helicopters that serve the civilian population. For 70 years military crews and their Royal Air force or Navy helicopters have been used to rescue those in need throughout the countries of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England. They will now concentrate on military missions while civilian SAR calls are to be handled by a private company.
Royal Navy variant and paint scheme.
Texas based Bristow Group won the first ten year contract that will replace the familiar yellow (Royal Air Force) and orange slash grey (Royal Navy) Sea Knight helicopters operated by the military with red and white Sikorsky S-92 and AgustaWestland AW 189s. Bristow will operate 22 aircraft spread across ten strategically located bases.
This is the future of Search And Rescue services for civilians in the United Kingdom. A Bristow owned and operated AW 189 helicopter.
Bristow is a strong player in the contract helo business and they are no stranger to this kind of job because they already provide SAR services in many parts of the world.
In this country, the Forest Service already uses contract birds in places like Denali and Grand Canyon so I am sure it is only a matter of time before privatization happens here on a larger scale. When and where in the United States will they begin providing these or maybe law enforcement aviation services for a major county, state or metropolitan area? We will see.