Islanders will start seeing a brand new Coastguard helicopter flying in the skies above the Isle of Wight later this month, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has announced.
The new £20million AW189, painted in traditional red and white HM Coastguard colours, is the first of 2 AW189s that will operate from Lee-on-Solent, replacing the smaller AW139 helicopters that are currently used.
In preparation of cliff rescues, hospital-to-hospital transfers and everything in between, the unmistakable AW189 will spend the next few months flying in the area on training missions before it starts operational duties from April 2017. Search and rescue work will, in the meantime, continue to be fulfilled from Lee-on-Solent by the Coastguard AW139 helicopters.
The new helicopters – which are longer and wider than the AW139s – will be registered as G-MCGS and G-MCGO, losing the well-known call sign ‘India Juilet’ associated with the former Sikorsky S61N helicopter and the present AW139 helicopter, G-CGIJ.
Bristow Helicopters Ltd will operate the helicopters on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency having secured a 10-year £1.9 billion deal with the UK Government to deliver aeronautical search and rescue helicopter operations from 10 bases. 7 of those bases are already operational, with HM Coastguard having taken responsibility for the provision of search and rescue helicopters from the Ministry of Defence. The remaining 3 bases which include Lee-on-Solent, are set to become part of the new contract in 2017.