Coastguard crews hand over mid-job at Torlundy near Ben Nevis. Photo: MCA

Coastguard crews hand over mid-job at Torlundy near Ben Nevis. Photo: MCA

Helicopter crews at a search and rescue base in Scotland have clocked up their 500th mission.

Inverness Coastguard staff reached the milestone recently, after taking over from military crews in April 2015.

Many of the flights have been to aid mountain rescues in the Highlands, including on the UK’s highest peak Ben Nevis.

The Bristow Helicopters-operated Sikorsky S-92s replaced the ageing Sea Kings of the RAF and Royal Navy and use a purpose-built base at Inverness Airport.

Inverness chief pilot John McIntyre said: “We feel privileged to be serving the communities in and around Inverness and indeed further afield in Scotland.

“The engineering and support staff have laboured tirelessly to maintain over 98 per cent availability of this critical service, allowing the aircrew to operate on 500 missions as far afield as Westray in Orkney and the Farne Islands in Northumberland, including many proud moments along the way.

“As an Inverness man I’m also pleased to say that my fellow ‘Invernessions’ have made the crews feel incredibly welcome. We look forward to being an even bigger part of the community in the years to come.”

In 2013 Bristow won the UK Government national contract to deliver search and rescue operations on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Seven of 10 strategically located bases have taken over the helicopter SAR responsibility from the military throughout 2015 and 2016.

The remaining three are set to become part of the new contract next year.

Russell Torbet, director of UK SAR, said: “Bristow’s heritage is steeped in search and rescue and our brave helicopter crews are currently delivering SAR all over the United Kingdom.

“The Inverness base has to date been one of the busiest, which is no surprise given its proximity to Scotland’s popular mountain ranges and coastal areas.

“I am immensely proud of our crews in Inverness, who have become a key part of the community and most importantly been instrumental in saving a significant number of lives over the past 18 months.”

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