Portland Facility
H.M. Coastguard


Key Facts

Short Name:
Nickname: unknown
Main Role: Search and Rescue
Secondary Role: -
First Formed: 1977
Parent Unit: HMCG HQ
Current Status: Active


A Coastguard helicopter was operating from RNAS Portland, Dorset, was contracted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency from Bristow Helicopters Ltd to replace the Royal Navy helicopter, when that service was withdrawn in 1995. Since then, the helicopter and crew have been on call 365 days a year from 9am to 9pm. The Portland unit became the second busiest Search and Rescue helicopter base in the UK.

The Portland Coastguard Helicopter’s normal operating area was from Hengistbury Head in Hampshire to Start Point in Devon, a coastline of 100 miles in length. This extended to mid-point of the English Channel, incorporating an area of 4000 square miles. The helicopter was operational on a daily basis for 12 hours from 0900 hours to 2100 hours. For incidents which take place at night or in bad weather conditions search capability was enhanced by the use of the FLIR Dual Sensor Surveillance System.

The old Portland Naval Air Station is now owned by the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) and is being developed commercially. In 2003 an agreement was reached with the SWRDA to secure the future of the helicopter base at Portland.

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

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. Due to the rationalisation of base locations defined in the 2013 contract, Portland will close as an SAR base in mid 2017.

Subordinate Units



Type Qty Service Example Serials
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 30 Sept 1995 – 30 June 2007 G-BBHL
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 ? – 15 July 2002 G-BBHM, w/o in engine fire
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 1 Oct 1995 – June 2008 G-BPWB
Sikorsky S-61N Mk II 1 1 July 2007 – June 2008 G-CGMU
AgustaWestland AW139 2 Apr 2008 – 2017 G-CGWB

Unit Markings



Main Bases

Base Duration
RNAS Portland, Dorset 1977 – 2017


S-61N G-BPWB at RNAS Portland. (photo, Steve Coombes)

More Information


  • Helis.com: Portland District

    Other Sources

    To be added.

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