#Coastguard - Last Friday 9 August, the Shannon-based search and rescue helicopter Rescue 115 flew its first missions with an all-female flight crew in pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and co-pilot Captain Carmel Kirby.
Capt Fitzpatrick is the chief pilot for Rescue 117 at the Waterford base and was on transfer to Shannon to build up flying hours on the new helicopter type, the Sikorsky S92, which is due to replace the S61 in Waterford in mid-September.
Capt Kirby, meanwhile, is scheduled to become the manager of flight operations for all the helicopter SAR bases later this year.
This was a historic occasion for the Irish Coast Guard as this was the first all-female SAR chopper crew, and they carried out two missions on their shift – one a cardiac case from West Cork who is recovering well at Cork University Hospital, the other a aero-medical transfer from Cork University Hospital to Temple Street of a critically ill five-year-old child.
Coastguard statistics show a 45% rise in the number of incidents to 1,572 missions by the end of July this year, and the total is expected to break 2,000 as early as October - more than any individual year since records began.
Aside from the good weather that's brought so many more people out on the water than usual, another factor in this increase is the trial aeromedical service for the HSE - with air ambulance missions up a whopping 925% this year.
The Shannon rescue helicopter has so far flown an incredible 187 missions, more than double the number it had flown in the first eight months of 2012.