UK He­li­copter SAR per­for­mance re­viewed

Pilot - - NOTES -

A review of the UK search-an­dres­cue he­li­copter (UKSARH) ser­vice, com­mis­sioned by the Mar­itime and Coast­guard Agency (MCA) and car­ried out by Qine­tiq, con­cludes that it has suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned from the for­mer mil­i­tary and Coast­guard cover to ser­vices pro­vided by Her Majesty’s Coast­guard and op­er­ated by Bris­tow He­li­copters, ‘but could still im­ple­ment actions to en­sure the ser­vice’s con­tin­ued per­for­mance’. Siko­rsky S-92s and Leonardo AW189S op­er­at­ing from ten bases through­out the UK have re­placed the UKSARH ser­vice’s ageing fleet of Sea Kings and Agus­tawest­land AW139S.

‘The tran­si­tion to the cur­rent UKSARH pro­gram in­volved nu­mer­ous changes in the way the ser­vice was pro­vided, in­clud­ing changes to op­er­a­tions, bas­ing, air­craft, per­son­nel, gov­er­nance, leg­is­la­tion and risk man­age­ment,’ says the re­port. ‘Nu­mer­ous an­tic­i­pated benefits of the ser­vice have been met, or are on track to be met… Re­al­i­sa­tion of all ten benefits iden­ti­fied in the UKSARH Benefits Re­al­i­sa­tion Plan is in progress, with five al­ready be­ing achieved in full, [and] the pri­mary ben­e­fit of saving lives was as­sessed as be­ing achieved in full.’

The re­port iden­ti­fies a num­ber of actions that could be im­ple­mented to en­sure the availabili­ty, per­for­mance and safety of the ser­vice in fu­ture. It rec­om­mends fur­ther ex­plo­ration of the UKSARH’S ca­su­alty trans­fer process, as ‘there are oc­ca­sions where UKSARH waits on the ground for a road am­bu­lance to ar­rive, and thus is not avail­able for other tasks’. It also ad­dresses air­crew train­ing and availabili­ty, not­ing that ‘The pool of trained ex-mil­i­tary air­crew re­cruited when the ser­vice tran­si­tioned from mil­i­tary SAR is sig­nif­i­cantly reduced [and] it would be pru­dent to as­sess the “suit­ably qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced per­son” risks, given the un­usual na­ture of SARH fly­ing, and en­sure op­er­a­tors are con­trac­tu­ally obliged to un­der­take ap­pro­pri­ate man­power plan­ning.’

Equip­ment-wise, the PIR sug­gests that SAR he­li­copters’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties ‘could be fur­ther ex­ploited to en­hance its role, in­clud­ing the use of data from for­ward-look­ing in­frared sen­sors to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on ca­su­al­ties, ter­rain and haz­ards’.

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