The HM Coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service in Stornoway, operated by Bristow Helicopters Ltd, has passed the 500 missions milestone since Bristow took responsibility for the lifesaving service in July 2013.
Bristow, which has a 45 year history of delivering search and rescue services in the UK, took over running the service on behalf of HM Coastguard at Stornoway in 2013. Bristow had originally operated the service out of Stornoway from 1983 until 2007 when the service briefly switched to another operator.
Captain Ben Clarke is chief pilot at the base in Stornoway, and is responsible for leading SAR operations on the north west coast of Scotland.
Ben has been flying for over 15 years and is also a qualified flying instructor. During his career with Bristow he has worked across six helicopter bases and flown three different fleets of aircraft.
Ben previously spent several years in Stornoway as a co-pilot before moving on to Norwich and then Sumburgh before returning to Stornoway as deputy chief pilot in 2014.
Captain Clarke said: “Completing over 500 missions over the past three years is a great honour and thinking about what has been involved in many of those is humbling.
“We fully understand the responsibility of our life saving role here and take immense pride in the service we provide.
“There are 30 people employed at Stornoway SAR including pilots, technical crewmen, engineers and our support staff and it’s the entire team that makes each tasking possible.
“We’re all very happy to call this beautiful island home and look forward to being of continued value to the people of the north west of Scotland in the years to come.”
In 2013 Bristow won the UK Government national contract to deliver SAR operations on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
Seven of 10 strategically located bases have taken over the helicopter SAR responsibility from the military in a phased approach throughout 2015 and 2016.
The remaining three, including the existing GAP SAR Coastguard bases in Sumburgh and Stornoway, are set to become part of the new contract in 2017.