UK government Minister of State for Transport Robert Goodwill opened a new £7 million coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base at Prestwick Airport during a visit to Scotland today (17 December 2015).
The minister officially launched the new civilian SAR service at Prestwick Airport, which will be operated on behalf of the UK Coastguard by Bristow Helicopters, after arriving on one of the Sikorsky S92 helicopter that will be dispatched to emergencies in the coming months.
Aircraft from Prestwick will serve west of Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland and be available to assist emergencies UK-wide when needed. The helicopters are equipped with the latest search and rescue technology including state-of-the-art night vision and improved onboard medical capabilities so they can operate in all weathers.
The new base is the latest stage of the £1.9 billion 10 year contract awarded to Bristow in 2013 to run UK services and joins Inverness which begun operation in April 2015.
UK Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said:
The new Prestwick Search and Rescue base will provide a vital emergency rescue service at sea, in coastal areas and inland throughout Scotland and the UK. The brand new state-of-the-art helicopters flying from here will be on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to reach those in need. Our investment has provided helicopters that can fly further and faster than the previous service and shows our commitment to helping keep Scotland safe.
Operations under the new UK SAR Helicopter service successfully began in 1 April 2015 from Inverness and Humberside Airports, with services also commencing at Caernarfon in July, Lydd in August and St Athan in October.
Earlier in the day, Robert Goodwill flew into Glasgow Airport where he met Amanda McMillan, Managing Director of Glasgow Airport, and Leader of Glasgow City Council Frank McAveety to talk about plans for a brand new rail link, jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments, that will offer fast, convenient travel times between the airport and Glasgow city centre and transform journeys for local people.
The business case for 2 possible schemes — one a tram-train line, the other a light rail system — were approved at the Glasgow and Clyde Valley cabinet meeting on Tuesday (15 December 2015), and could be up and running by 2025. The link would be funded through the £1.13 billion Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal fund, which received £500 million from the UK government.
Robert Goodwill also saw met representatives of the Jet 2 airline to see how a pioneering Glasgow Airport scheme on antisocial behaviour on flights is progressing. Duty-free alcohol for passengers boarding flights is being sold in tamper-proof sealed bags as part of a trial also being run at Manchester Airport.