H.M. Coastguard

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

Her Majesty’s Coastguard or, more commonly, H.M. Coastguard, is a division of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT). It’s main duties are coastal surveillance and pollution patrol. Aircraft are supplied and operated by civilian contractors.

The Coast Guard was first established in 1822, primarily as an anti-smuggling force. It also had the secondary duties of safeguarding shipwrecks and life saving. The growing influence of the Royal Navy within the service resulted in the Coast Guard being placed under the control of the Admiralty in October 1856. Thereafter, the service also performed a formal role as a naval reserve force. By the early 1900s the anti-smuggling role had greatly diminished and the Admiralty was proposing to drastically scale-down the Coast Guard. This was opposed by the public, the Board of Customs and the Board of Trade, who championed the need for life saving and revenue protection.

After a major inquiry, in 1923 the service was placed under the Board of Trade and specifically tasked with marine safety and life saving. This was confirmed by the Coastguard Act of 1925, which formally defined it’s roles and powers. This act also introduced the ‘Coastguard’ title as one word instead of two words.

After using military helicopters for urgent marine rescues since the 1940s, in 1983 the first dedicated Coastguard helicopters were obtained from a private contractor. These helicopters operated off the coast of Scotland, filling the gap where the normal military Search and Rescue (SAR) service seen in the rest of the UK was not available. This service became known as the UK Gap SAR service. Fixed-wing aircraft were also contracted for pollution control work. In 1994 the Coastguard service became a Government Agency and in 1998 the Marine Safety Agency was combined with the Coastguard Agency to form the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The success of the Scottish operations lead to similar contractor-operated SAR services at two locations on the south coast of England.

After awarding a new SAR helicopter contract to CHC Scotia on 13 December 2005, the Coastguard took delivery of four new Sikorsky S-92 and three new AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters to replace the ageing Sikorsky S-61Ns then in service at the four contractor-operated SAR bases. The five year contract ran from 1 July 2007 until 2012. Plans were announced in May 2006 for the merger of UK military and civil SAR helicopter provision from 2012, under a single civilian contractor. This target date was later moved to 2015. In 2012 Bristow Helicopters won the UK Gap SAR contract and took over operations from CHC in 2013. In March 2013 Bristow also won the new UK-wide SAR contract, committing to operate two helicopters each from 10 bases around the British Isles from 2015 onwards. The bases were to be operational 24 hours a day. Seven of these bases were new to contractor SAR operations and required significant infrastructure investment before operational flying could commence. Bristows ordered 11 Sikorsky S-92s and 11 AgustaWestland AW189s to provide this service. Unfortunately, the bad weather certification of the AW189 was delayed, and some AW139s and additional S-92s had to be drafted in, to provide temporary cover until full certification was received. Validation of the full-ice protection system on the AW189 was achieved in June 2016, allowing entry into service to commence. The complete SAR service is expected to be fully operational by mid 2017.

Key Dates

15 Jan 1822    Coast Guard first established by Board of Customs
Oct 1856    Control of the Coast Guard passed to the Admiralty
1923    Coast Guard placed under the Board of Trade, specifically dedicated to marine safety and life saving
1925    Coastguard Act passed, formally defining it’s powers and responsibilities
1983    First dedicated Coastguard helicopters obtained
April 1994    Coastguard Agency formed
1 April 1998    Marine Safety Agency and Coastguard Agency combined to form Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
13 Dec 2005    CHC Scotia wins UK Gap SAR contract
2012    Bristow wins UK Gap SAR contract
Mar 2013    Bristow wins 10-year UK SAR contract to replace all military SAR services
29 June 2016    AW189 fully certificated for SAR operations

Current Status

Bristow has commenced operations at all ten SAR locations required under the 2013 UK SAR contract. The full service will be available in mid-2017.

Future Plans

Take delivery of 11 AgustaWestland AW189 helicopters by mid 2017, to replace the AW139s and S-92s used pending full AW189 certification.

Markings

Special Markings

No national markings are carried. The service titles HM COASTGUARD or COASTGUARD RESCUE are displayed on the fuselage sides of aircraft and helicopters. Some anti-pollution spraying aircraft carry POLLUTION CONTROL titles.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

All aircraft and helicopters carry civil registrations. Recent helicopters have been assigned registrations in the G-HMCx sequence.

Unit/Base Codes

Unit coding system not used.

Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designation used.

Current Aircraft Inventory

Click on aircraft type for more details
Aircraft Type Total
Del'd
Total
Now
Still On
Order
Role
AgustaWestland AW139330Search and Rescue
AgustaWestland AW1891147Search and Rescue
Cessna 404 Titan II220Pollution Control
Cessna F406 Caravan II220Pollution Control
Lockheed L-188 Electra220Pollution Control
Sikorsky S-9218110Search and Rescue

All-Time Aircraft Used List

All-Time Table of Aircraft Used

Aircraft NOT Used

No false reports known.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

MCA Headquarters, Bay 3/25 Spring Place, 105 Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1EG.

Organisational Structure

The aviation units of the MCA come under of the Directorate of Operations (DO), which is split into a number of Branches looking after Counter Pollution, Search and Rescue, Ship Inspection and Law Enforcement. Coastguard SAR helicopters are currently based at eleven different locations in the UK, but Portland will close in 2017. Fixed-wing pollution control aircraft are based either at the contractors home airfield, or at Inverness in Scotland.

Current Unit Assignments

Table of Current Unit Assignments

Historical Unit Assignments

Table of Unit Assignments for 2000
Table of Unit Assignments for 2007

All-Time Flying Units List

Dover Surveillance
Pollution Control North
Pollution Control South
Counter Pollution Unit
Caernarfon
Humberside
Inverness
Lee-on-Solent
Lydd
Newquay
Portland
Prestwick
St Athan
Stornoway
Sumburgh

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

See current unit allocation table.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

As for current bases plus Southend (Essex) and Manston (Kent).

More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added.

Websites

Maritime & Coastguard Agency

wikipedia: Her Majesty’s Coastguard

Bristow Helicopters: UK SAR

RVL Group

S-61 in HM Coastguard

helis.com: hm coastguard

Historical Unit Assignments for 2007
H.M. Coastguard

Unit Type Base
Counter Pollution and Response Branch (CPR)
Pollution Control South 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport
Pollution Control North 1 Cessna 404 Inverness Airport
Counter Pollution Unit 2 L-188 Electra, 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport/Inverness
Search and Rescue Branch (SAR)
English South Coast 1 2 AgustaWestland AW139 Lee On Solent, Hampshire
English South Coast 2 1 AgustaWestland AW139 RNAS Portland, Dorset
Sumburgh 2 Sikorsky S-92 Sumburgh, Shetland Islands
Stornoway 2 Sikorsky S-92 Stornoway Airport, Outer Hebrides
Channel Navigation Information Service (CNIS)
Dover Surveillance 1 BN-2A-26 Islander Lydd, Kent

Historical Unit Assignments for 2000
H.M. Coastguard

Unit Type Base
Counter Pollution and Response Branch (CPR)
Pollution Control South 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport
Pollution Control North 1 Cessna 404 Inverness Airport
Counter Pollution Unit 2 L-188 Electra, 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport/Inverness
Search and Rescue Branch (SAR)
English South Coast 1 2 Sikorsky S-61N Lee On Solent, Hampshire
English South Coast 2 1 Sikorsky S-61N RNAS Portland, Dorset
Sumburgh 2 Sikorsky S-61N Sumburgh, Shetland Islands
Stornoway 2 Sikorsky S-61N Stornoway Airport, Outer Hebrides
Channel Navigation Information Service (CNIS)
Dover Surveillance 1 BN-2A-26 Islander Lydd, Kent

Current Unit Assignments
H.M. Coastguard

Unit Type Base
Counter Pollution and Response Branch (CPR)
Pollution Control South 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport
Pollution Control North 1 Cessna 404 Inverness Airport
Counter Pollution Unit 2 L-188 Electra, 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport/Inverness
Search and Rescue Branch (SAR)
Caernarfon 2 Sikorsky S-92 Caernarfon Airport, Gwynedd
Humberside 2 Sikorsky S-92 Humberside Airport, North Lincs.
Inverness 2 AgustaWestland AW139 Inverness Airport, Highland
Lee on Solent 2 AgustaWestland AW139 Lee On Solent, Hampshire
Lydd 2 AgustaWestland AW139 Lydd, Kent
Newquay 2 Sikorsky S-92 Newquay, Cornwall
Portland 2 AgustaWestland AW139 Portland, Dorset
Prestwick 2 AgustaWestland AW139 Prestwick Airport, South Ayrshire
St Athan 2 AgustaWestland AW139 St Athan, South Glamorgan
Stornoway 2 Sikorsky S-92 Stornoway Airport, Outer Hebrides
Sumburgh 2 Sikorsky S-92 Sumburgh, Shetland Islands

Lee-on-Solent Facility
H.M. Coastguard

History

The first Lee-on-Solent based Coastguard Helicopter became operational on 15th May 1988. The Helicopter’s normal operating area stretched from Beachy Head in East Sussex to St Albans’s head in Dorset, including Poole Harbour during the day. At night, this area was extended to include Start Point in Devon, a coastline of some 170 miles in length. This area extended to the mid-point of the English Channel. Occasionally the helicopter was tasked to incidents outside this area due to its FLIR capability. Since it was established in 1988 Lee-on-Solent has proved to be the busiest Maritime Search and Rescue helicopter unit in the United Kingdom.

Under a unique agreement with the Hampshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, the latter provides an paramedic crew for medical emergencies at sea. Hampshire Ambulance despatches a paramedic ambulance from their nearby Gosport base and the ambulance crew board the Coastguard helicopter at Lee-on-Solent, together with their paramedic kit and a portable radio which transmits on ambulance frequencies.

The S-61Ns were operated by Bristow Helicopters Ltd under a contract that expired on 30 June 2007. They were replaced by two new AW139 machines supplied by CHC Helicopters.

In March 2006 the MCA brought the Lee-on-Solent airfield site from Defence Estates, securing it’s future. On 1 December 2006 construction commenced of a new hangar to house Coastguard helicopters. It’s first occupants were the new AW139s. The Hampshire Police helicopter also operates from a location very close-by.

Under the UK SAR contract awarded in 2013, Bristow Helicopters took over operation of the service from CHC in 2015. The AW139s were replaced by newer Bristow-owned examples. These AW139s are in turn due to be replaced by new AW189 machines in April 2017.

Subordinate Units

None

Aircraft

Type Qty Service Example Serials
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 15 May 1988 – 1989 G-BCLC
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 1989 – late 2007 G-BDIJ “Crathes”
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 19?? – June 2008 G-BBVA (Reserve)
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 Jan 2008 – June 2008 G-BIMU (Primary)
AgustaWestland AW139 1 Feb 2008 – Present G-CGIJ
AgustaWestland AW139 1 Mar 2008 – Present G-SARD
AgustaWestland AW189 2 Apr 2017+  


Unit Markings

 

 


Main Bases

Base Duration
Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire May 1988 – present


Photographs

S-61N G-BDIJ at Lee-on-Solent. (photo, Chris Jones)
S-61N G-BIMU at Lee-on-Solent in early
2008. (photo, Mark Adams)


More Information

References

  • To be added.

Other Sources

To be added.

Dover Surveillance Unit
H.M. Coastguard

History

One fixed-wing aircraft based in Kent, to patrol the Dover Straits on behalf of Dover Coastguard. Carries air-droppable life-rafts, marine radios, law-enforcement evidence-gathering equipment etc. The Islander was operated by Atlantic Aviation Ltd and retired in 2007, apparently without replacement.

Subordinate Units

None

Aircraft

Type Qty Service Example Serials
BN-2 Islander 1 1998 – 2007 G-BCEN


Unit Markings

 

 


Main Bases

Base Duration
Manston, Kent 1998 – mid 2005
Lydd, Kent mid 2005 – 2007


Photographs

None at present.

More Information

References

  • To be added

Other Sources

To be added.

Newquay Facility
H.M. Coastguard

History

Newquay was one of the new bases established under the ten-year UK SAR contract awarded to Bristow Helicopters in March 2013. It is the home for two Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopters. The first helicopter arrived in October 2015. The facility was officially opened on 15 December 2015 and became operational in January 2016. The service is available 24 hours a day.

Subordinate Units

None

Aircraft

Type Qty Service Example Serials
Sikorsky S-92 2 19 Oct 2015  


Unit Markings

 

 


Main Bases

Base Duration
Newquay Airport, Cornwall Oct 2015 – Present


Photographs

None at present.

More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.

Caernarfon Facility
H.M. Coastguard

History

Caernarfon was one of the new bases established under the ten-year UK SAR contract awarded to Bristow Helicopters in March 2013. It is the home for two Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopters. The first helicopter arrived in May 2015. The facility was officially opened on 8 July 2015, but had already become operational on 1 July 2015. The service is available 24 hours a day.

Subordinate Units

None

Aircraft

Type Qty Service Example Serials
Sikorsky S-92 2 7 May 2015 G-MCGJ


Unit Markings

 

 


Main Bases

Base Duration
Caernarfon Airport, Gwynedd May 2015 – Present


Photographs

None at present.

More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.

Humberside Facility
H.M. Coastguard

History

Humberside was one of the new bases established under the ten-year UK SAR contract awarded to Bristow Helicopters in March 2013. It is the home for two Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopters. The first helicopter arrived in January 2015. The facility was officially opened on 26 February 2015 and became operational on 1 April 2015. The service is available 24 hours a day.

Subordinate Units

None

Aircraft

Type Qty Service Example Serials
Sikorsky S-92 2 26 Feb 2015 G-MCGH


Unit Markings

 

 


Main Bases

Base Duration
Humberside Airport, North Lincs. Feb 2015 – Present


Photographs

None at present.

More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.