An alert DT reader forwarded this article to me from a British news service.
New search-and-rescue helicopters serving remote parts of the Highlands have yet to carry out a long-range rescue - eight months after being brought into service.
There have been problems with the multimillion-pound aircraft over the use of long-distance fuel-tanks.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has insisted the problems have all been resolved, saying the tanks are now fully operational.But crews are understood to be unhappy about the loss of seating for casualties on the aircraft in order to accommodate the tanks.
Problems surrounding the fitting of the tanks have meant the four Sikorsky S92s based at Stornoway on Lewis and Sumburgh on Shetland have been unable to carry out non-stop rescues to the range which was originally heralded.
They are, in fact, covering half the distance.
The two helicopters at Sumburgh do not have the tanks - which double their range to 400 nautical miles - fitted, while those at Stornoway, where the extra distance is most needed, are yet to carry out a rescue using them.
The MCA confirmed there had been issues over fitting the tanks.Crewmen and spokesmen at both Stornoway and Shetland Coastguard have confirmed the tanks are "not operational" yet, despite the MCA's insistence that they are.
An interesting development for sure, but hardly an indictment on the aircraft itself. Problem is, when Sikorsky is fighting tooth and nail to get back in the running on the CSAR-X contract, news like this can't help.
The first S92s were introduced in Stornoway in October, and then in Shetland in November.
Some crew are also understood to be unhappy with the tanks because they halve the seating on the craft and have questioned whether they should be used.
One source said it was a "Catch 22 situation", adding: "Do you swap the extra miles for less room for casualties, so you rescue fewer people?
The tanks have cut the seats from seven to just three."The problems first surfaced in March when a Stornoway-based helicopter was unable to rescue an injured crewman because it was out of range.
Instead, an RAF helicopter from Lossiemouth had to fly an extra round trip of 250 miles to rescue the Russian seaman, 185 miles off Benbecula -- ironically landing him at Stornoway where the new Sikorsky S92 is based.
(Thanks to the anonymous tipster for the gouge)