There above us, the Thunderous sound we heard this morning over the Fylde’s skies was Her Majesty’s Coastguard’s Bristow-Sikorsky S-92 – a massive helicopter capable of rescuing up to 21 people or MORE if the Pilot dares risk it.


And invariably they do risk it. This helicopter pictured has flown over 500 Missions and is the busiest in the UK now that the RAF have retired their SAR fleet from around the country. And with the loss of NPAS Warton – NPAS-Barton moss being the next nearest base a 20 min flight away which generally only comes out here in severe incidents only – we’ve not got much surveillance or search coverage on the fylde coast. We’re pretty much relying on THIS beast of a chopper for maritime search rescue and mountain rescue in the lakes also.

Coastguard in Action

The range of this Coastguard aircraft is 999 KM and allows it to cover out as far as the Western shores of Ireland all the way over to the Eastern coast of the UK, it’s southern most reach is the BAY OF BISCAY in France all the way up to Glasgow at it’s northern most reach. That’s just on one tank of fuel.  But don’t forget that there are refuelling stations at the furthest tips of this helicopters range and within a matter of minutes this bird can be re-fuelled and back in the air for another 999 KM. That’s some incredible coverage. Better than the BBC…

National Coverage 24/7

There are currently 10 Coastguard helicopter bases in the UK covering a much wider area allowing for plenty of overlap to allow teams to run extended search missions if required. These guys are backed up by the Royal Navy’s fleet of Merlin helicopters – The staff on board these helicopters are all civilians working for Bristow – un-enlisted men and women who undoubtedly do a fantastic job saving lives – but it is a sign of the times when the government has to farm out Her Majesty’s work to civilians because they do a good job on a smaller budget.
The RAF formerly operated the famous bright Yellow Sea King Search and Rescue (Sikorsky SH-3) helicopter from 1941 to 2016 with state of the art upgrades and re-fits as technologies advanced. But costs began to mount up, the Government was forced to cut spending and eventually handed over control of it’s rescue assets to civilian operator Bristow.

Marine one

The Sea King does however still operate in the US – Marine One  is the designated call-sign for the helicopter that the president travels in . Marine one can be one of a fleet of helicopters at the disposal of the President.
This version is a heavily upgraded and modified version of the SeaKing helicopter. Like the saying goes – They don’t build them like they used to. It’s small enough to fit inside a C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft so it can be wherever the president needs it to be.
There are some new helicopters in the HMX 1 fleet based on the Sikorsky H-92 which is basically a modified version of the S-92 same as UK Coastguard operate.  looks a bit different don’t you think. We don’t know what countermeasures or secret weapons this aircraft has got but after 9/11 a review was called for in the presidential helicopter fleet and billions of dollars was poured into the project. THIS is the result

The New Breed of Coastguard Helicopters

In comparison to the old Sea King – The Bristow operated Sikorsky S-92 fleet are capable of taking off with a greater maximum take off weight. Going from the statistics available on Wikipedia, the newer helicopters don’t seem to be able to fly as far, fast or as high as the SeaKing but they can lift a few more pounds. Regardless of the marginal difference – It would still be reassuring to see one of the massive choppers hovering above you if you were stranded out at sea. Doesn’t matter how noisy it is – I think we can all put up with the little disturbance for the massive benefit it delivers!

Minimal Air Support

One of the issues our Police force faces now is that due to budget cuts in mental health related services in social services and the NHS – the police are dealing with more and more incidents involving people who need proper help and aren’t getting it. What has this got to do with The old Lancashire Police Helicopter?

Rather than cruising round looking for cannabis factories and snooping on sunbathers – the chopper was mainly used for supporting officers with dangerous situations, gathering evidence after major accidents; But the majority of times the Helicopter was used in the location of vunerable missing people – like elderly patients with dementia who go for a wander in the night, vunerable teens who have ran away from home. They were there to help US ALL in our hour of need. Now we’re seeing the yellow and blue helicopter less and less as it has further to travel and obviously guzzels more fuel getting here. Thank god we’ve got our North West Air Ambulance which operates as a charity on our DONATIONS


A low cost option which could replace our now lost police helicopters may be the use of unmanned drones. There are currently NO plans to use drones for SAR in the UK. Operators don’t believe that they are as good as the human eye and brain when it comes to looking for a lost soul. But the technology now is coming on leaps and bounds in the drone tech world. Would it be possible to equip officers with up-graded versions of these pocket sized DJI Mavic Drones?

At less than £1200 – these tiny but high tech drones really do seem like they could be the way forward at least for smaller scale searches and evience gathering. Imagine having a flying officer out of reach of the criminal but observing and feeding back live footage to control. Would people and officers behave differently if big brother was watching when the police were around?

With budgets getting smaller and smaller and the fall-out from leaving The EU looming in whatever form it comes – there is much uncertainty as to how well we can protect our merchant sailors, missing people and critical casualties as well as we have done in previous years. Hopefully we will be able to strike agreements with neighbouring European nations to ensure that we are contributing and being helped by our neighbours in times of need.

A General thankyou goes out to all the crew working to keep peoples lives safe when the tide turns and peril faces them. Working to cover us all the time whether we drift off on a lilo or get stuck climbing up a cliff face – well not round here but we hear and see the big beast quite often now. It’s about time we got to know her a little better!

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