Helicopter rescue stats released, showing increase in rescues

helicopter follows two RNLI rescue craft

Figures have been released detailing SAR (search and rescue) helicopter responses to emergencies.

Overall there were 2,735 civilian SAR helicopter ‘taskings’ in the UK in the year ending March 2024. That looks like an average of seven per day, and shows a six per cent increase compared to the year ending March 2023, says the Department for Transport’s report.

Overall, fifteen per cent (405) were maritime, 39 per cent (1,057) coastal and 47 per cent (1,273) land.

chart showing new stats on helicopter SAR
Proportion of taskings by location type, year ending March 2024

The stats definition of coastal is anything that’s between 0.2 miles inland and three nautical miles out to sea. Maritime picks up more than three nautical miles out while land encompasses all other taskings that are not classed as coastal or maritime.

Three bases account for the majority of the national increase in taskings for the year end March 2024. Those were Newquay, St. Athan and Lee on Solent. Each had the greatest actual and relative increase in taskings compared to the year ending March 2023, with an increase of 23 , 24 and 17 per cent respectively.

map showing number of helicopter taskings by location
Tasking location by base, year ending March 2024

Prestwick saw the most taskings in the year ending March 2024, at 402. Prestwick has historically always been a busier base due to its centralised location and proximity to both coastal and mountain recreation sites.

Just under half of all the taskings were classified as rescue or recovery (1,351), followed by support (576), search (518) and pre-arranged transfers (290). Pre-arranged transfers were mainly land based (68 per cent) while rescue/recovery had a larger proportion of maritime locations compared to other tasking types (22 per cent). Support and search taskings had similar proportion of taskings by location type, coastal (around 50 per cent), land (around 40 per cent) and maritime (around 10 per cent).

chart showing helicopter taskings for SAR
Proportion of taskings by tasking type and location type, year ending March 2024

1,425 people were rescued and 159 assisted by SAR helicopters across all taskings during the year ending March 2024.

In July last year, an agreement was signed to make it easier for HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopters to respond to requests to transport seriously ill or injured adult patients between NHS hospitals in England. Continue reading about dramatic helicopter rescues around the world.

Main image courtesy of Fowey RNLI which launched its all-weather lifeboat to assist in a search for a missing diver off the Eddystone Lighthouse on 9 June. The search was a multi-agency one, co-ordinated by Falmouth coastguard, involving Fowey, Plymouth all-weather and inshore 85 lifeboats, Rescue 94 Helicopter and Smit Yare. While the Fowey crew was commencing its section of the search, Plymouth’s 85 crew located the diver who was floating on the water surface. The Plymouth crew rescued the diver and got him and his equipment onboard its all-weather boat.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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