MCA Aviation has announced that the second generation UK SAR aviation programme is currently in a market engagement phase.
The Contract Notice is due to be published in the first quarter of 2021. That is nearly a year later than the previously published date.
The procurement cycle is due to take up to 24 months (previous contract took 16 months).
The contract award is due in December 2022.
Service commencement is due on 30th September 2024 which is 18 months later than the date stated in Schedule 2.5, Table 2.3.4 of the current contract. (An option for a 24 month extension is part of the current contract.)
Helicopters: Civilian versus MOD
by ScraggyGoat - on 28 Nov 2011 (Date of Contract Notice and announcement.)
SAR Helicopter Service contract: implementation phase
by Jim Fraser - on 31 Jul 2013 (4 months after contract award.)
SAR Helicopter Service contract: implementation phase, part 2
by Jim Fraser - on 06 Jan 2016 (as the last military SAR flight in the UK is stood down)
Over 1000 posts and over 100,000 views so far.
Out in the real world, thousands of lives have been saved by this service.
Jim, these threads have been great - I wonder have you formed a view of the overall success of the program compared to the historic set up?
They might have saved thousands of lives, but the two chopper rescues I’ve been involved in they were both pretty useless. One Coastguard in Pembroke and another in Scotland in winter.
> They might have saved thousands of lives, but the two chopper rescues I’ve been involved in they were both pretty useless. One Coastguard in Pembroke and another in Scotland in winter.
Happy to hear more about those if you are so inclined. Email maybe.
Qinetiq were engaged to produce a Post Implementation Review of the current contract in 2018 and that was published in mid-2019 and referred to on the previous thread:
There are no major failings identified in the PIR. I have done a few notes about it here:
The merger between Bristow and Era is expected to complete in mid-June 2020. The current President and CEO of Era will be President and CEO of the combined company.
As in 1955, and again in 2006, when a name was sought for a new organisation, on this occasion the dice fall in the same way and the combined company will be called Bristow.
The bits we're interested in will be run by Brits from Bristow.
There are indications that the commitment to SAR remains undiminished.
The process leading to a new contract for SAR aviation starting in 2024 has begun and on Tuesday 12th May the MCA held the Industry Day in the form of an online meeting. The recording of that is on gov.uk and youtube. It's over an hour long but you can get a strong flavour of what is going on by skipping from one slide to the next in the first half and the second half is a live Q&A.
BBC news article.
Runners and riders still marshalling themselves at the starting gate for this race probably.
"Babcock says offshore helicopter market ‘no longer attractive’ in long term"
"As a result, the firm has booked a £502 million ($633 million) write-down in its aviation business, chiefly related to the goodwill of the operation.
That is a significant increase on the impairment charge outlined in a February trading update, which at that stage was predicted to be just £85 million.
Babcock has been active in the segment since its 2014 acquisition of Avincis, which had previously bought offshore operator Bond Helicopters, a business whose roots stretched back to the early days of oil and gas support flights.
(Archie) Bethel had warned in the February trading update that it did “not intend to invest further to stay in that [offshore] market” and said it would not chase the low pricing of its rivals, most of which had shed debts via US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection."
There is a some potential for this to have an effect on the SAR contract but we must wait to see what that might be. Normally, one would expect to see Babcock being a prominent bidder. Last time, before the Avincis-Band acquisition, they started out as part of Osprey with BIH and ERA before getting together with Bond under the Azimuth banner after Osprey dropped out. Azimuth were in the final stage along with Bristow and could easily have been operating all or part of the contract today.
The big question might be, do Babcock see their debt-shed competitors (BHL & CHC) as a threat to the profitability of the SAR contract in the same way as in the crew-change market?
This contract is likely to include big military style drones.
In certain cases this would be helpful in being sent up at the same time as the heli as the drone has far superior search capabilities to pinpoint people on the ground to save the heli "search" time.
It is of course up to the bidders to show that there is an effective place for a remotely piloted fleet. I am sure Elbit will be happy to talk this up regardless of which way the evidence points but there are some serious problems to consider.
There is currently no regulatory framework for these machines although that is being examined.
"On the ground" may rarely or never be part of the scenario. In the water: yes. However, it's difficult to see where these will realistically fit in when the MCA is already questioning the roles a super-medium rotorcraft for their large number of short-range jobs. The very same short-range jobs that MCA analysts are making a great fuss about bring the greatest de-confliction challenges for a remotely piloted fleet.
Out west of Ireland they can fly around at a few hundred or at 2000 feet as much as they like and all the other traffic is at 35000 feet. Out there of course having a cruise speed slower than a Sea King might be a wee problem.
If we consider how long it took to develop the regulatory framework for SAR helicopters or how long it took to introduce the AW189SAR then it becomes more difficult to be optimistic about a remotely piloted fleet for 2024.
Fortunately, there are plenty of enhancements that fit with the MCA's technological ambitions without a remotely piloted fleet.
Enhanced sensors including hyperspectral, mobile phone detection and interaction, upgraded aircraft (AW189K? S-92B?), new hoist clutches and cables, enhanced terrain awareness systems, synthetic vision, laser obstacle proximity systems, and integrated systems on rotor and fixed wing fleets, are all out there.
Flight Global have spoken to the MCA's Aviation Technical Assurance Manager and written an article about the contract process. That is the guy whose department writes the technical specification. He's been at this for a while.
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I don’t think a “drone” has far superior search capabilities to pinpoint people than a manned platform. Both manned and unmanned air systems can be mounted with the same type of sensors. The advantage of unmanned systems is that they tend to have longer range/endurance as you don’t need to cater for people, the advantage of manned systems is that decision making is taking place at the optimum location with the best situational awareness.
For the world in general...the use of “drone“ is a pejorative colloquialism which comes from the predominantly US use of the unmanned air systems to conduct strikes against individuals...they aren’t (mindless) drones as they are very high tech and controlled by trained personnel.
MCA have conducted a SAR Stakeholder Presentation, on the morning of Tuesday 30th June, in the same format as the Industry Presentation that I posted about above. As with the Industry Presentation, it is expected that the SAR Stakeholder one will be posted on the GOV.UK site and the MCA's Youtube channel.
You'll be able to get a flavour of things once it's posted on those sites. Then if you have any questions, just stick them on here and I'll try to provide an answer.
It was attended by representatives from police, mountain rescue, lifeboats and others.
It is worth noting that there wasn't time for any of this back in 2011/13 and that several of the SAR stakeholders had their heads in another space. In particular, police in Scotland were scurrying around preparing for unification and police in England & Wales were creating the National Police Air Service.
> The merger between Bristow and Era is expected to complete in mid-June 2020.
This was completed on the 11th of June.
MCA Aviation have now created a publications page
for all further details of the UKSAR2G programme.
This new page includes PDF files with details of the industry presentation.
The Q&A document is quite revealing of industry thinking and some of the same questions that come up in the MR community appear there.
Time for an unmanned aerial dictionary.
RPAS Remotely Piloted Aircraft System. Term used by the RAF, and others, for their remotely piloted fleet.
SUA Small Unmanned Aircraft. Term used in CAA documents for aircraft of less than 20kg dry. Those under 7kg are subject to enhanced airspace restrictions.
sUAS Small Unmanned Aircraft System.
SUSA Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft.
UAS Unmanned Aircraft System. Term used in CAA regulations encompassing all systems.
UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Term widely used but increasingly referring to only the vehicle as a component of a UAS which includes all associated systems.
The BMC have launched a 'No Moor BBQs' campaign, after countless devastating moorland fires. They are calling on the government to criminalise the use of disposable barbeques on open moorland, with a severe penalty for anyone caught.