26th March: Visit to “Coastguard 175”

Along with 11 other watchkeepers from NCI Calshot Tower and NCI Stone Point I visited our local HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Helicopter Unit “Coastguard 175” on Tuesday 26th March 2024. Situated at Solent Airport, Lee-on-the-Solent, the Unit is provided by Bristow Helicopters Ltd. under contract to the Coastguard.

The “Coastguard/Rescue 175” unit presently operates two Agusta AW189 aircraft with one constantly available, 24 hours a day. The base also provides engineering facilities for helicopters from other sites. They have two crew teams comprising two pilots and two winch-men, at least one of whom is a fully trained paramedic, and they operate alternating 24 hour watches.  At night they can sleep on the base with a slightly longer scramble time compared to the day.

The helicopter can be flown from either forward pilot position although the starboard side is preferred since the winch is on that side. The aircraft has a visual and IR camera system mounted beneath the nose and at night they use night vision glasses.  Apparently the IR system is limited in capabliity because the head of someone in the water gets close to the water temperature after a fairly short time.  The winch-man who showed us around said that he enjoyed being winched down and landing on vessels.

It was interesting to learn at first hand the capabilities of the aircraft which we often observe over the Solent either on task or during training, the latter sometimes close to NCI Stone Point . There are more photos on the NCI Calshot Blog.