Scottish mountain rescuers with the new AgustaWestland helicopter. Photo: MCA

Scottish mountain rescuers with the new AgustaWestland helicopter. Photo: MCA

Mountain rescuers in Scotland got their first hands-on experience of a new helicopter that will be based north of the border.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s AgustaWestland AW189 flew to the general meeting of Scottish Mountain Rescue from its base on the English south coast.

The MCA said the trip was the first of many for the new helicopter as it prepares to join the Coastguard’s search and rescue helicopter fleet across the UK.

“Equipped to fly in the most hostile conditions, the AW189 will really prove its worth in supporting the work of Scotland’s mountain rescue experts as well as working along the coast,” the Coastguard said.

At the conference mountain rescue delegates had the opportunity to take a closer look at the aircraft and talk to the crew about the helicopter’s capabilities.

Bristow currently operates Sikorsky S-92 helicopters from bases in Inverness and Prestwick, which regularly support mountain rescue teams on their missions. The introduction of the smaller AgustaWestland aircraft has been delayed but the helicopters are now being prepared for operational duties.

Damien Oliver, assistant director for aviation for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “We are delighted that the new AW189 helicopter will shortly be joining the UK search and rescue helicopter fleet.

“Our aircraft carry out a number of rescues in the Scottish mountains in response to people who have become injured, lost and at risk of exposure, and so we take every opportunity to train with our search and rescue colleagues to ensure we’re ready when the call comes in.”

Kev Mitchell, vice-chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue said: “We were all pleased and excited to have the opportunity to work with the new MCA AW189 search and rescue helicopter and chat to the aircrew about operational matters.

“Teams found this very useful and valuable. We were impressed with the capabilities of this new aircraft and look forward to its operational roll-out later this year. Use of the new aircraft should enhance our operational deployment and speed response times for our casualties.

“We are grateful to the MCA and Bristow Helicopters for bringing the aircraft from the south coast of England to our general meeting at Birnam, near Perth, as it allowed representatives from more than 20 teams to view the aircraft at one venue.”

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