Search and rescue helicopter statistics: Year ending March 2022

About this release

This release covers civilian search and rescue helicopter (SARH) operations in the UK. The data originates from the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Center (ARCC) which are responsible for the co-ordination of SAR helicopters, and is provided to DfT by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). This release covers the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.

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There were 2,747 civilian search and rescue (SAR) helicopter taskings in the UK in the year ending March 2022. This is a 26% increase compared to the year ending March 2021. The coronavirus pandemic is likely to have had an impact on tasking figures, whereby domestic holiday preferences may be related to the broad peak of taskings over the summer and autumn months. (chart 1).

On average, SAR helicopters across the UK responded to 8 taskings a day during the year ending March 2022.

1,608 people were rescued and 397 assisted by SAR helicopters across all taskings during the year ending March 2022. This is an increase of 34% and 71% respectively on the year ending March 2021. The highest proportion (47%) of people assisted were taskings from the Lydd base. Most bases saw an increase in the number of persons they assisted.

Of all taskings, 51% (1,407) were rescues or recoveries.

SAR helicopter services supported and completed 71% of all taskings during the year ending March 2022, a similar proportion to the previous year. A further 25% were terminated and 3% were diverted, suspended or cancelled.

Chart 1: Total number of civilians HSAR tasks, April 2017 to March 2022 (SARH0101)

Task definition:

The response of a SAR helicopter to an emergency as notified by the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center (ARCC).

Generally HSAR taskings for the year ending March 2019 and year ending March 2020 follow the historic seasonal pattern including a peak in the summer months (July and August) followed by a decrease commencing in September and leveling off throughout winter (chart 2).

In the year ending March 2021, HSAR taskings were initially lower than previous years in April (64 taskings), when the UK-wide lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic was applied, and increased to near previous levels between May and June. August recorded the second highest monthly volume of HSAR taskings on record (365 taskings) – attributable to an increase in beach taskings following lockdown easing. This may be related to summer 2020 travel behavior and preference for domestic holidays in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Winter trends from November 2020 to February 2021 were in line with previous years (chart 2).

Chart 2: Civilian HSAR tasks by year and month, April 2018 to March 2022 (SARH0112)

In the year ending March 2022, HSAR tasks were consistent with previous years for April and May. The number of taskings then increased, showing a broader peak in taskings over the summer and autumn months compared to previous years, and returned to similar levels seen in previous years in November. This resulted in the highest number of taskings in a financial year (2,747 taskings) since this publication began. This may be related to the preference for domestic holidays due to the coronavirus pandemic, as seen in summer 2021. Winter trends, from November to February, were consistent with previous years. The number of taskings for March 2022 (218) was particularly high compared to recent years, but this was similar to the number of taskings in March 2018 (211). The taskings in March were highest at bases that serve mountainous areas (Inverness, Prestwick and Caernarfon) (chart 2).

Tasking categories and outcomes

Tasking category definition:

  • Rescue or Recovery: The transfer of person(s) resulting in them being delivered to a safe environment (including medical facilities)

  • Search: Search for craft, person(s) etc which does not result in moving a person

  • Pre-arranged Transfer: Transfer of patients or organs between medical establishments

  • Support: Includes on-scene assistance, pre-positioning of SAR units for a potential incident and movement of equipment/personnel

In the year ending March 2022, there were 1,407 rescue and recovery taskings which made up 51% of all taskings. This was followed by 522 support taskings (19%), 462 search only taskings (17%) and 356 pre-arranged transfer taskings (13%) (chart 3).

Pre-arranged transfer taskings had the highest proportion of taskings completed (94%), followed by 84% for rescue and recovery. The majority of support taskings were terminated (62%) which was the highest percentage of terminated taskings across the categories. The majority of search only tasks were completed (60%), followed by terminated (34%) (chart 3).

Chart 3: Number of tasks by tasking type and outcome, year ending March 2022 (SARH0102)

Location of tasking

Rental definition:

  • coast: Taskings occurring between 0.2 mile inland and 3 nautical miles out to sea

  • Maritime: Taskings that occur more than 3 nautical miles out to sea

  • Land: All other tasks that are not classified as coastal or maritime

In the year ending March 2022, there were:

  • 1,317 land based taskings which accounted for 48% of taskings, the same proportion as in the previous year
  • 995 coast taskings which accounted for 36% of all tasking, compared to 40% in the previous year
  • 435 maritime taskings which accounted for 16% of all taskings, compared to 12% in the previous year (chart 4)

Chart 4: Proportion of taskings by location type, year ending March 2022 (SARH0112)

In the year ending March 2022, the majority of:

  • pre-arranged transfer taskings took place on land (69%), the same proportion as in the previous year
  • rescue and recovery taskings took place on land (49%), an increase of 2 percentage points compared to year ending March 2021
  • search only taskings took place at the coast (47%), a decrease of 3 percentage points compared to year ending March 2021
  • support taskings took place at the coast (46%), a decrease of 4 percentage points compared to year ending March 2021 (chart 5)

Chart 5: Proportion of taskings by tasking type and location type, year ending March 2022 (SARH0112)

Maps of HSAR tasks and bases

Map of tasking location by base

In the year ending March 2022, there were:

  • 159 tasks from Stornoway base (North West Scotland)
  • 170 tasks from Sumburgh base (North East Scotland)
  • 366 tasks from Inverness base (East Scotland)
  • 196 tasks from Humberside base (East England)
  • 252 tasks from Lydd (South East England)
  • 260 tasks from Lee on Solent (South England)
  • 294 tasks from Newquay (South West England)
  • 250 tasks from St. Athan base (South Wales)
  • 337 tasks from Caernarfon (North Wales)
  • 463 tasks from Prestwick base (West Scotland) – which covers the Lake District, Ben Nevis, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

Map 1: Tasking location by base, year ending March 2022

Map of tasking category

In the year ending March 2022, there were:

  • 1,407 rescue or recovery tasks
  • 522 support tasks
  • 462 search tasks
  • 356 pre-arranged transfers

Map 2: Tasking location by tasking category, year ending March 2022

Map of civilian search and rescue bases

There are currently 10 civilian search and rescue bases open in the UK, with the taskings these bases have been assigned to up to March 2022 detailed in this report. An additional base, Portland, previously responded to search and rescue taskings until its closure in June 2017.

Map 3: Map of civilian search and rescue bases

background information

This release covers civilian search and rescue helicopter (HSAR) operations in the UK, for all 10 current bases. In April 2015, the operational phase of a new contract to operate civilian search and rescue helicopter (HSAR) services in the UK, managed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), commenced. These new arrangements took over from the previous mixture of military and coastguard HSAR services.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is now responsible for the production of statistics on HSAR activity. The data originates from the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Center (ARCC) who are responsible for the co-ordination of a SAR helicopter and is provided to DfT by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

National Statistics

These statistics are now designated as National Statistics. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards as set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics. The Code of Practice for Statistics plays an essential role in ensuring that statistics published by government inspire the public confidence through demonstrating trustworthiness and providing high-quality statistics.

Further information about these statistics is available, including:

Revisions

Following further data cleaning a small number of duplicate taskings were removed in October 2020 and January 2021 (15 in each month), and figures in the published tables have been revised. The revisions are small and do not have an impact on overall trends.

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