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The future of UK SAR, post SAR-H

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The future of UK SAR, post SAR-H

Old 27th May 2012, 20:39
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It is all just posh hovering
Yet another PPRuNe contributor who thinks it's pilots that make the difference.
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Old 9th Jun 2012, 17:40
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Concerns over contracts revealed.
Search and rescue helicopter contracts awarded despite police probe: TBIJ

A Canadian helicopter company at the centre of an ongoing MoD police investigation into bidding ‘irregularities’ has been allowed to re-tender for the multi-billion pound contract for the UK’s search and rescue service.

The Bureau has learned that the Canadian Helicopter Corporation (CHC) has also recently been awarded interim contracts to run services in the south of England. The company’s alleged involvement in serious irregularities resulted in the government having to abort a previous bidding round at a cost of £10m. The Bureau’s revelations will now be brought before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

The multi-billion pound privatisation of search and rescue helicopter operations has been dogged by controversy since it was first proposed in 2005. It will hand over control of the service from the RAF, the Royal Navy and the Maritime Coastguard Agency to a purely civilian operation. Prince William, who qualified as a search and rescue pilot yesterday, was one of those who raised concerns directly with the prime minister, David Cameron, over the planned sell-off.

The whole process was thrown into disarray last year when the Government cancelled the £6bn procurement contract after it emerged that ‘commercially sensitive information’ came to be in the possession of CHC. The company was part of the Soteria consortium also including, Thales UK, Royal Bank of Scotland and Sikorsky.

In a Commons statement, the then Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond said: ‘The irregularities included access by one of the consortium members, CHC Helicopter, to commercially sensitive information … and evidence that a former member of that project team had assisted the consortium in its bid preparation, contrary to explicit assurances given to the project team at the time.

‘The Government has sufficient information to enable it to conclude that the irregularities that have been identified were such that it would not be appropriate to proceed with either the preferred bid or with the current procurement process.’

The MOD revealed in answer to a Parliamentary Question that approximately £10m had been spent on the project.

The Ministry of Defence has now withdrawn completely from the replacement PFI deal announced last November and the procurement process is being run solely by the Department for Transport.

According to the Department of Transport the inclusion of CHC Helicopter in the new bidding process is good for business.

‘The Ministry of Defence Police investigation into the failure of the PFI is ongoing. Not only would it be wrong to pre-judge the outcome of that investigation, CHC’s participation in the current UK SAR helicopters procurement increases competitive tension in the tendering process.’

However he asserted that pending the outcome of the police investigation, the Department did not rule out the option of trying to recoup the £10m losses incurred by the taxpayer in aborting the previous round.

The chair of the House of Commons Select Committee for Transport, Louise Ellman expressed surprise at the Department’s decision.

‘It is important that this procurement is conducted in a way that gives public confidence. I am surprised that anyone involved with the collapse of the previous procurement, where investigations have not been concluded, may be involved. I will discuss this with the Committee,’ she said.

CHC has been shortlisted in the procurement process along with 10 other companies. The range of 10 year contracts to run the new, entirely civilian, search and rescue service are worth between £2-3bn. They will replace more than 40 helicopters currently operated by the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Maritime Coastguard Agency. The final contract will be awarded in February next year, with operations starting in full in 2017.

Meanwhile, in addition to making it on to the DfT shortlist for the main national contracts, the Department renewed contracts with CHC to run the interim search and rescue helicopter services in Portland and Lee on the Solent in the south of England. The company also previously ran services in Scotland but lost those to a more competitive bid.

The MOD Police were also called in to investigate the bidding irregularities and decide whether a criminal offence had been committed. It has confirmed to the Bureau that its investigation is still ongoing. In a statement a spokesperson said: ‘The investigation has been continuing for over a year, and has required much painstaking work and the interviewing of potential witnesses over a wide area internationally. There have been no arrests to date, but when this investigation is complete, the findings will be reviewed before a final decision is made as to whether any further action is required.’

Responding to criticism over the move to renew interim contracts and allow CHC to re-bid, the company told the Bureau that the British public could be confident in the probity of the company. In a statement it said that as soon as it became aware of the irregularities it brought them to the attention of the Government, and that the information was irrelevant to the bid.

Mr T L Reid, vice-president of global communications for CHC in Canada said: ’Obviously we’d much rather that any seeds of poor judgement or worse don’t get into the organisation in the first place. But when they do we’ve got to make sure that they don’t take root. We’ve got high standards, people know them, overwhelmingly they follow them, in the air and on the ground, and the rare occasions that they don’t – we take action. Three individuals were properly dismissed from CHC.’

He added: ‘We’ve been fully cooperative from the time we called the activity to the attention of the Government. We know the case is continuing – we are not going to speculate about how it might turn out.’

Under EU law any company or individual convicted of offences involving corruption is excluded from the tendering process.
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Old 9th Jun 2012, 18:38
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Originally Posted by crab@
Spanish - all military aircraft with a winch??? you are having a laugh! Our SH bretheren have more than enough kit to worry about needing to be serviceable and the winch will be the first thing that gets red lined in the F700. We also get to see how poor winching can be when people don't practise on a regular basis.
C@S, all RN aircrew (regardless of specialisation) undertake SAR training during their respective OCP. These skills are then refreshed regularly throughout their aviation careers and even more so during an embarkation work up. Plane guard has not been provided by a SAR Squadron for many years with the task falling to embarked Pinger/Junglie aircraft - incidentally these are all fitted with a winch permanently when embarked. The Junglie aircraft will only remove the winch if the land environment that they will be operating over demands it. I think you do our SH brethren a dis-service, the ability to recover drums/survivors is not a black art and is in reality a quite easily acquired and maintained skill.

Having operated SAR both in and out of the service, I can safely say that the service provided may differ in method, but the results are entirely comparable.
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Old 9th Jun 2012, 21:25
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Zzzzzzzzzz. Some pilots just don't get it. The best pilots are still completely reliant upon having decent rearcrew to do the job. If they're not well-trained, current in EVERY aspect of SAR winching and at least one of them has at least 9 months of everyday, frontline SAR experience, then when you do get a call off the back of your ship, your big moment could well turn into the proverbial.

Last edited by Vie sans frontieres; 20th Jun 2012 at 09:37.
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Old 9th Jun 2012, 21:37
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Vie hits the nail on the head.
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Old 9th Jun 2012, 23:57
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your big moment could well turn into the proverbial.
Lyme Bay canoe cock up for example, oh, and the Fastnet!
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 07:14
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Jungliebeefer - I have seen so many incident signals from the RN where winching has gone wrong due to lack of practice and currency with the crews that your comments become risible. It's all part of the Navy myth that anyone can do SAR and that statement is never qualified by the terms safely or effectively.

Try asking a Lynx crew down South who cat 3'd their aircraft because they wouldn't listen to the advice from the SAR crew about how to winch a stretcher - they knew better because 'anyone can do SAR' - oh yes, of course it was their engineer acting as winch-op instead of someone properly trained and current!

Was it an RN crew who winched in so far out of the overhead that they dragged the winchman and 'survivor' across the deck and through the railings? Oh yes, but 'anyone can do SAR' and 'winching is easy'!

the ability to recover drums/survivors is not a black art and is in reality a quite easily acquired and maintained skill.
I'm guessing you have never been on the end of the wire and tried to get someone into a strop in the water - I have and it's bloody difficult and very tiring. This is the perennial non-dedicated SAR RN problem - 'yeah we've done a couple of grapple serials over the oggsplosh so we are good to go any time any place any where.'

SAR is not just about hovering.

Last edited by [email protected]; 10th Jun 2012 at 07:21.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 13:27
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Oh dear. Is this now where we have RN crews digging through incident reports to find equally 'embarrassing' examples of where RAF crews perhaps got it wrong.

Crab. Did you witness any of these? Thought not - so you're basing your ridicule on heresay, rumour or a biased slant on a report perhaps? Isn't hindsight wonderful?

Every time there is an unfortunate incident there are generally many links in the chain. I doubt even you crab have never made a mistake, despite your extensive experience and training. Picking holes in each other is hardly promoting a professional military service

SW
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 14:43
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C@S

At the beginning of my career I spent a most enjoyable hold over on a SAR squadron acting as "survivor", spending time on the wire for any number of boat / wet / cliff evolutions. This certainly provided me with a great opportunity to fully comprehend the challenges and professionalism of SAR rear crew.

Subsequently I have instructed on both Junglie and RN SAR squadrons. Wet winching in the Sea King with its stable hover and LVI doppler meter is a relatively easy evolution to pick up and most pilots do so very quickly.

"SAR is not just hovering"
Actually in terms of the main physical ability required of a SAR helicopter pilot that is exactly what it is ... can you hover next to a boat / cliff / survivor / confined area!! The difficult bit is not this, appropriate initial and continuation training ticks this bit quite nicely. Once established in the hover then the control of these situations rightly falls to the rear crew. A successful SAR crew is a team led by a SAR Captain who has that combination of Airmanship, Professional Knowledge and Leadership to consistently make the right calls - teaching/imparting/fostering sound SAR captaincy is the difficult bit.

Your general comments about the lack of capability achieved by RN crews deployed around the world in the SAR role is wrong, I know this because I have been there deployed at Sea as well as on land on a permanent SAR base and I am therefore in a position to make a considered comparison. Over the years deployed crews have achieved a plethora of rescues in some of the most challenging of SAR scenarios. Throughout their careers, crews will complete continuation training in the full range of capabilities required including those SAR related ones.

Your use of single examples is meaningless, i'm sure that a quick trawl of the RAF SAR incident signals would also throw up events that when quoted in isolation would seem to show what is a professional and capable force in a negative light ...

This is the perennial non-dedicated SAR RN problem - 'yeah we've done a couple of grapple serials over the oggsplosh so we are good to go any time any place any where.'

The fact is that there is no problem, the large number of rescues carried out over the years prove that this is the case. Your throw away "a couple of grapple serials" comment is so far removed from the truth, that I seriously doubt that you have spent any significant period deployed with a front line RN unit, because surely you must have at some point in the past to feel justified to make such accusations.

Last edited by jungliebeefer; 10th Jun 2012 at 15:17.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 15:19
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A well balanced reply JB - well IMO anyway. What is for sure is that both the RAF and RN over the decades have delivered excellent SAR capability, sometimes in the most extreme circumstances. Sure, things can go wrong, and Crab is right to a degree. Sometimes some fairly iffy decisions have been made and things have gone notably wrong. However, given at least 5 decades of such operations, its a testament to all and their overall professionalism that so few significant accidents have ever happened - lets hope it stays that way!
What I think we could all agree on is that sufficient quality training aligned with continuous experience delivers top quality.
It is only right that some question whether a commercial operator is motivated to fund enough training of the amount and quality required to deliver the best service. While the RAF in particular has enjoyed well funded SAR training until recently, in the present situation, its hard to believe it was ever going to be sustainable.
What is for sure is that Bristow, Bond and CHC seem to deliver a competent service with the latest aircraft. While they may not do as much regular training as their military equivalents, it is foolish to say they don't have good people who don't understand the issues, manage them as well as possible and seek the highest standards. Whats more, the CAA under their new SAR regulations will be doing their best to underpin this. For those who think the MoD manages the broader fundamentals better, I have only one comment: Haddon-Cave!
The bidders for the new service must be working overtime at the moment. Isn't the next bid due in later next week?

Last edited by 4thright; 10th Jun 2012 at 15:23.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 15:54
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2020

In about 2020 the SAR helicopter service will have consisted entirely of civilian contractors' aircraft for over 4 years and we could be entering the early stages of a contract process for a replacement service to start transition in 2023 through to 2026.

It's interesting to think about how much bitching will be going on then. Let's imagine that the main contract, rather like Gap, will go in 2 lots and lot 1 goes to company B and lot 2 goes to company C.

Will the crews from company B be seen and heard bitching endlessly about the inadequacy of crews at company C? And C bitching about B?

Well, they might. Perhaps some of them will and these are the ones that won't have jobs after 2026. The remainder demonstrate maturity and judgement in their understanding that it's just not that childishly simple and that shortly they could very easily be working for the other lot!

Last edited by jimf671; 10th Jun 2012 at 15:56.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 16:22
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JB - you miss my points entirely - I am not talking about Gannet and 771 SAR crews who train on a regular basis - I am talking about your 'secondary role brigade' because that is where the 2 incident signals I referred to (and I did have personal experience of one of those - the other was subject of a detailed incident report with little room left for conjecture).

You also keep banging on about how easy hovering is for pilots - of course it is, it's our job - it is not very frequent that poor service from the front end causes problems winching, it is lack of skill and practise at the back end because, as we all know, winching goes from 'la la la steady' to 'f8ck me!' in an instant.

A SAR captain has exactly no influence on what goes on on the end of the wire - once the winchman is out of the door it is purely down to the winch-op and the winchman himself. All the captaincy and airmanship in the world at the front end can't affect that - all you do is assess the overall risk, approve the basic winching plan and then give the winchman clearance to go out of the door.

SPanish - I have been instructing and operating in front-line SAR for the last 10 years and am still doing it so I do have some knowledge of the subject.

Jim, it will depend on how open and honest reporting is in the post mil SAR world, at the moment all the form Rs and DFSORS are easily accessible and widely circulated so that fellow operators can learn from other's mistakes and experiences. Since MORs exist in civil aviation and the MCA will have access to all post SAR reports, one hopes that the desire not to air one's dirty laundry in public will not overcome the need for a free flow of information.

If we end up with two contractors for the new service, how much co-operation and cross-pollination will there be when KPIs and contract penalties might be at risk?

You only have to read some of the comments on other threads (especially the North Sea) to realise that every company will tell the world they are doing a brilliant job and yet the truth from their customers or employees is often very different.

Last edited by [email protected]; 10th Jun 2012 at 20:19.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 18:59
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C@S,

You must of mis-read my post, as it was written defending exactly those RN crews whose prime task is not SAR.

Quote:
The fact is that there is no problem, the large number of rescues carried out over the years prove that this is the case. Your throw away "a couple of grapple serials" comment is so far removed from the truth, that I seriously doubt that you have spent any significant period deployed with a FRONT LINE RN unit, because surely you must have at some point in the past to feel justified to make such accusations.

Just to clarify that SAR was always regarded as a second line tour.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 19:54
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Ah, the old 'only SH/Jungly flying is front-line' I'm sure the 771 and Gannet boys and girls love your dismissal of the operational capability. Fortunately we still regard SAR as operational even if it isn't war-fighting since bus-driving in a Sea King in the desert is a support task. I think the Apaches do the real fighting stuff

The fact is that there is no problem, the large number of rescues carried out over the years prove that this is the case.
that is real head in the sand stuff - 'we haven't actually killed anyone doing it so it must be good' is hardly a qualitative assessment of 'secondary' SAR.

Last edited by [email protected]; 10th Jun 2012 at 20:21.
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 21:04
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Could you two start a new thread? Call it "My dad's bigger than your dad"
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Old 10th Jun 2012, 21:29
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C@S

I don't see why referring to SAR as a second line tour is regarded as a negative. As a member of 771 in a previous life, all personnel regarded it as such. It provided an excellent opportunity to spend a significant part of our lives at home with family whilst recharging our batteries before returning to the front line. This doesn't in any way take away the skill and courage required to undertake SAR - all undertaken with an equivalent professionalism to our compatriots in the RAF SAR force. I see that your "head in the sand" comment is clearly borne of a clear lack of knowledge and understanding of embarked RN capability. Surely if SAR is regarded as an operational capability, the light blue powers that be would not entertain civilianising it?

Manchester

Take your point!!

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Old 11th Jun 2012, 05:26
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Manchester - valid point so all I ask is for JB to detail exactly how much live wet winching embarked Lynx, Jungly or Merlin crews are required to complete annually to retain this excellent secondary role capability.
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Old 11th Jun 2012, 10:09
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For those who read this thread to keep up with the process - it looks like high level bid proposals are due in today, bidder presentations imminent & key downselect notification on 23rd July, if this timetable still stands (P24): http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publication...n-5-3-2012.pdf

Sorry if all this has already been posted but I only have the heart/time to sift through this thread every once in a while

BM
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Old 11th Jun 2012, 12:29
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It has been shifted to the right by 3 days - 14th June is now the day for the vans full of paper
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Old 11th Jun 2012, 13:00
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The latest published timetable is on sheet 43 of the 30th April trade day presentation at the following address.
http://assets.dft.gov.uk/publication...april-2012.pdf
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