Bristow to Operate U.K.’s Finmeccanica Rescue Helicopters

Bristow Group Inc. won a 1.6 billion-pound ($2.4 billion) U.K. government contract to operate search-and-rescue helicopters made by Finmeccanica SA and United Technologies Corp.

Bristow will provide land and sea service extending as far as 250 nautical miles offshore from 10 sites around the U.K., the Department for Transport, which ran the competition for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said today in a statement. Houston-based Bristow will use 12 S-92 helicopters built by United Technologies’ Sikorsky division and 10 AW189s from Finmeccanica’s AgustaWestland unit, the department said.

The order replaces an agreement with CHC Helicopters to run a fleet of S-92s that was canceled in February 2011 over contracting irregularities. AgustaWestland, the world’s second-largest helicopter maker, said last month that it would begin civil rotorcraft production in Britain if it prevailed in new competition. Graham Cole, chairman of AgustaWestland’s U.K. arm, said exports of U.K.-built AW189s could exceed 2 billion pounds.

The new fleet will replace U.K. Ministry of Defence Sea King helicopters used for rescue work that are due to be phased out in 2016. The new helicopters are intended to cover a larger area within one hour of takeoff, providing “an overall improvement in flying times to incidents of around 20 percent, from 23 to 19 minutes,” the department said.

Bond Aviation was the losing bidder in the final round.

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