New helicopters to have greater range

The MCA has received the first of three new Search and Rescue helicopters. To be based at Portland and Lee on Solent on the South Coast and Sumburgh, Stornaway, the new AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters can fly faster and further than the existing SAR helicopters.

Peter Cardy, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), said: “They have been specifically kitted with various items of advanced technical equipment, including an onboard automatic identification system (AIS), specifically designed for the challenges of search and rescue in the 21st century.”

Richard Norris, chief pilot, said: “There’s a big difference in power which means we’ll be in a safer position when we are winching.”

The new helicopters can fly at a cruising speed of 140 knots with a top speed of 167 knots – compared to the 110-knot cruising and 130 top speed of the previous Sikorsky helicopters used by the coastguard.

The AW139 also has a 40% increase in winch speed and has a maximum flight time of three hours and 20 minutes.