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New coastguard choppers almost here

| Written by Shetland News

One of the new Bristow S-92s on a training flight. Photo Bristow One of the new Bristow S-92s on a training flight. Photo Bristow NEW state of the art search and rescue helicopters have arrived in Scotland for training flights prior to arriving in Shetland to be used by the coastguard service.

The new Sikorsky S-92 helicopters have been fitted out with the latest night vision equipment and other features to help coastguard officers carry out their emergency work in the tough northern conditions.

Two new choppers are currently undergoing training flights out of Inverness airport with a further two due to arrive soon, prior to being sent to Sumburgh and Stornoway to start work on 1 June and 1 July respectively. 

The new aircraft are being brought in by Bristow Helicopters who won the UK Gap search and rescue contract a year ago, taking over from Canadian firm CHC.

Bristow boasted on Tuesday that the new choppers feature technology never previously used in commercial search and rescue aircraft.

These include the latest night vision goggles, forward looking infrared and thermal imaging equipment and high illumination lighting to make it easier to work in the dark.

Long range fuel tanks will help the aircraft to fly the extra distance to reach a vessel in difficulty.

Wireless communication equipment will allow coastguard crews to speak to crews on nearby vessels and a much improved public address system will help communications as well.

There will also be a new medical zone intercom allowing the cabin and the cockpit to be isolated from each other so flight crews are not distracted while paramedics work on a patient.

Cabins also feature improved lighting, with an emergency white light to allow advanced medical procedures to be carried out on board.

Some of the new technology is being deployed for the first time on a commercial search and rescue aircraft in Europe.

Bristow ran the coastguard service in Shetland prior to CHC taking over six years ago.

The new contract is part of a new plan to remove the military involvement in search and rescue operations around the UK, which will see the closure of two stations in England at Boulmer and Portland.

However it appears that Shetland will lose the familiar call signs Oscar Charlie and Romeo Charlie by which the coastguard choppers have been known for many years.