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United Kingdom
Coast Guard Aviation

Current Title: Her Majesty's Coastguard (H.M. Coastguard)
Abbreviation: HMCG


Narrative Summary:
HM Coastguard is a division of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT). It'a 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 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 the 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. 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.

Plans were announced in May 2006 of a possible merger of UK military and civil SAR helicopter provision from 2012, under a single civilian contractor.

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)

Current Status:
After awarding a new SAR helicopter contract to CHC Scotia on 13 December 2005, the Coastguard is taking delivery of four new Sikorsky S-92 and three new AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters to replace the ageing Sikorsky S-61Ns currently in service. The five year contract will run from 1 July 2007 until 2012.

Future Plans:
The Coastguard may become responsible for providing all UK Civil and Military Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter services from 2012.


National Insignia:
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 Numbering System(s):
All aircraft and helicopters carry civil registrations.

Unit/Base Aircraft Code System(s):
Unit coding system not used.


Aircraft Designation System(s):
None - Manufacturers designation used.

Current Aircraft Inventory:
Current service types-
Aircraft Type Total
Role Origin
AgustaWestland AW 139 3 3 Search & Rescue CHC
Britten-Norman BN-2A-26 Islander 8 1 Surveillance AAT
Cessna 404 Titan II 2 1 Pollution Patrol AAT
Cessna F406 Caravan II 1/1 1/1 Pollution Patrol/Spraying AAT
Lockheed L-188 Electra 2 2 Pollution Spraying AAT
Sikorsky S-92 4 4 Search & Rescue CHC
AAT = operated by Atlantic Air Transport Ltd under contract.
CHC = operated by CHC Scotia under contract.

All-Time Aircraft Used List:
Alphabetical Order --- Chronological Order


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

Current 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 based at four different locations in the UK - two locations on the south coast of England and two in the islands north of Scotland. Fixed-wing pollution control aircraft are based either at the contractors home airfield, or at Inverness in Scotland. An additional fixed-wing aircraft patrols the eastern English Channel from a base in Kent.

Current Unit Assignments:
Units and bases-
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 2 L-188 Electra, 1 Cessna F406 Coventry Airport/Inverness
Search and Rescue Branch (SAR)
English South Coast 1 2 AgustaWestland AW 139 Lee On Solent, Hampshire
English South Coast 2 1 AgustaWestland AW 139 RNAS Portland, Dorset
Shetland Islands 2 Sikorsky S-92 Sumburgh, Shetland Islands
Outer Hebrides 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:
Helicopter bases have not changed. Pollution Control aircraft have been based at Southend in the past.

All-Time Flying Units List:
Unchanged from present units listing.

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


None known.


To be added.


Maritime & Coastguard Agency
History of the UK Coastguard
CHC Helicopters
Bristow Helicopters
Atlantic Reconnaissance
S-61 in HM Coastguard
helis.com: hm coastguard
UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency welcomes new Sikorsky S92 helicopters to SAR fleet

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First Created: 14 April 1998 - Last Revised: 20 July 2008
Copyright 1998 John Hayles.    e-mail: john@aeroflight.co.uk