US company to run UK search and rescue helicopters

UK to privatize military search and rescue service whose pilots include Prince William

Associated Press
US company to run UK search and rescue helicopters

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FILE - In this Monday, July 9, 2012 filer photo Btritain's Prince Charles, and his son, Prince William, head back to the RAF Rescue base after Prince William showed his father round his RAF Sea King Rescue helicopter at RAF Valley in Valley, Wales. Britain's search-and-rescue helicopter service, which employs Prince William is to be run by US-headquartered Bristow Helicopters, the Government announced Tuesday March 26, 2013 .The decision ends 70 years of the service run by the RAF and Royal Navy squadrons. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, Pool, File)

LONDON (AP) -- A private U.S. company is to take over the work of Britain's military search-and-rescue helicopter service, whose pilots include Prince William.

The Department for Transport announced Tuesday that Houston, Texas-based, Bristow Group has won a 1.6 billion pound ($2.4 billion) contract to operate the service, which for 70 years has been run by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force squadrons.

Bristow Managing Director Mike Imlach said the company would replace Britain's aging Sea Kings with more advanced helicopters to provide a better service. But unions said they were concerned about the privatization.

Prince William flies a Sea King on rescue missions for the Royal Air Force.

His tour is due to end later this year, before the air force stops its search and rescue operations in 2016.

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