Search and rescue contract sold to American company

RAF Leconfield Air Sea Rescue Sea King helicopter on exercise with Scarborough' main lifeboat, one of the first events of this weekend's Scarborough Lifeboat Weekend.   093163c  'pic Andrew Higgins      31/07/09      in News
RAF Leconfield Air Sea Rescue Sea King helicopter on exercise with Scarborough' main lifeboat, one of the first events of this weekend's Scarborough Lifeboat Weekend. 093163c 'pic Andrew Higgins 31/07/09 in News
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Search and rescue helicopters - which are a regular sight off the coast of Scarborough - will be operated by an American company as of 2015.

The service has been sold to The Bristow Group, based in Texas, in a deal worth £1.6 billion.

The sales ends 70 years of search and rescue operations by the RAF and Navy and will end the use of Sea King helicopters.

Mark Appleby, station manager at Scarborough Coastguard, said he hoped that the change would not have any effect on rescue operations locally.

He said: “If we have a situation, we can request a helicopter or one can be requested by the operation room.

“This will continue to be the case, so personally I don’t think it will affect us.”

The RAF says it will end its search and rescue work from March 2016 after handing over to Bristow. Staff could take on other airborne roles or ground-based work.

The Department for Transport said the contract would deliver improved flying times and better coverage of high-risk areas.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “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.” Under the new contract, 22 helicopters will operate from 10 UK locations.