500th mission milestone for St Athan Coastguard helicopter search-and-rescue base

The St Athan HM Coastguard search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter team has completed its 500th mission milestone since Bristow Helicopters commenced SAR operations on behalf of HM Coastguard in October 2015.

The base was one of the first purpose-built sites created as Bristow took responsibility for the U.K. SAR service, with each new base representing an investment worth in the region of £7million.


One of 10 HM Coastguard SAR helicopter bases located strategically around the U.K., St Athan provides vital life-saving support to the fishing and other marine industries and the offshore energy sector, as well as to land-based incidents including missing persons and other medical emergencies.

Bristow crews are delivering the U.K. SAR helicopter service on behalf of HM Coastguard with state-of-the-art helicopters, equipped with the latest SAR technology including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities.

Completing 500 missions in just over two years is a significant occasion for St Athan’s dedicated teams of pilots and specialist winchman paramedics, winch operators, engineers and support staff, the majority of whom transferred to the new SAR service from the former military operation.

Capt Olly Padbury, chief pilot at St Athan, said: “Reaching 500 jobs is a very proud moment for the base and comes after an extremely busy month, with over 50 SAR call-outs in August. I can’t remember a busier month in all my years in SAR. A huge amount of work has gone into providing search-and-rescue from St Athan since we opened in October 2015 and I am very proud of the team here.”

“Our focus is always on bringing people home safely from a search-and-rescue operation, dedicating ourselves to year-round training, and living up to the incredibly high standard that the U.K. SAR service has been renowned for delivering for more than 70 years.


“Many people won’t be aware just how regularly we are called out as, compared to the sound of an ambulance or fire engine passing by, our missions are often undertaken in remote and challenging areas where our work goes unseen.

“We rely on the public for their support — in terms of preparing themselves as well as possible before they venture out on land and at sea, and for providing accurate information when calling 999 for assistance.”

The St Athan base has a team of 30 employees, located at the Coastguard SAR base at St Athan Aerospace in South Wales. Bristow began operating the U.K.’s SAR helicopter service on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in 2015, after winning the tender in 2013.


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