Coast Guard Contracting Commercial Helocopter Services

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Jay Barrett/KMXT

The U.S. Coast Guard has put out a request for bids to provide contract helicopter services based on Kodiak Island. The on-call service isn’t to supplement the air station’s search and rescue choppers, but rather to allow them to remain available for SAR missions.

Lieutenant Commander Greg Dykes, based in Juneau, is the executive officer for the Rescue 21 Project. He said hiring a commercial helicopter service is the best way to do various flying jobs in support of the program while not incurring the expense of using the Jayhawk and Dolphin helicopters at Air Station Kodiak as delivery vehicles.

(USCG 1 22 sec "Both types of aircraft … assist us with our operations.")

The contract helicopter will be used to deliver personnel and equipment to remote mountaintops where the Coast Guard is upgrading VHF maritime communications in coastal Alaska as part of Rescue 21.

(USCG 2 25 sec "We also do maintenance … fly there by helicopter.")

The proposal stipulates that the helicopter and pilot must be based in Kodiak, and the contract has gone for several years to Maritime Helicopters of Kodiak. But Dykes says the bidding process is open, and any helicopter company in the nation could win the bid, as long as they’re willing to station a pilot and chopper here in Kodiak.

The Rescue 21 program is an upgrade to VHF radio communication along coastal Alaska, designed to make communications with fishing boats and other ships at sea more reliable. Dykes explains that one feature of the technology called "Digital Selective Calling," will help the Coast Guard pinpoint ships in distress:

(USCG 3 34 sec "Anyone who’s bought a new … to effect a rescue.")

The Rescue 21 program will continue its build-out through 2017. The on-call helicopter contract runs between May 1st and the end of the year.

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