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S92 Search & Rescue Helicopter Launched in Dublin

13th January 2014
coastguard chopper launch
Minister Varadkar with the crew at the launch of the New Coast Guard Helicopter at Weston Airport (2)
S92 Search & Rescue Helicopter Launched in Dublin

#coastguard – Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar officially launched the Coast Guard's new state-of-the-art S92 search & rescue helicopter for the Dublin region in Weston Airport today.

This is the fourth and final Sikorsky S92 helicopters to come into operation for the Coast Guard and means the entire fleet has now been upgraded. It replaces the Sikorsky S61 which was in use until recently at Coast Guard bases in Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford.

Speaking at the launch Minister Varadkar said: "This new helicopter means the Irish Coast Guard now has one of the most modern and effective helicopter fleets in the world. The S92 is tailored specially for search & rescue operations. It has an extended range of 270 nautical miles, is faster and safer, can carry more casualties, and can fly at higher altitude and in much worse weather.

"I'm delighted that the entire Coast Guard helicopter fleet has now been upgraded. It comes after one of the busiest years ever for the Coast Guard which responded to 2,627 incidents involving fishing craft, leisure vessels and mountaineers. A well-equipped and well-resourced Coast Guard can represent the difference between life and death for anyone in trouble at sea or on land.

"The new helicopters also allowed the Coast Guard to expand its role in providing emergency medical transport for the HSE. Last year the Coast Guard performed 253 aeromedical missions and 159 offshore island medical evacuations.

"This is a good occasion to pay tribute to the dedicated helicopter crews who work tirelessly to rescue lives all year round, and also the hundreds of volunteers on Coast Guard and RNLI vessels, mountain and cave rescue teams. It wouldn't be possible to provide the same level of emergency response without these volunteers. That's also why we have the highest ever allocation of €67.9 million for the Coast Guard in 2014 to finance the provision of critical search & rescue services."

Coast Guard Director Chris Reynolds said: "This has been an exceptional year in terms of the number of incidents, but there has been significant progress in terms of modernising and further developing the Coast Guard. The new helicopter fleet will greatly enhance our capacity to provide a first-class response to all emergencies in the year ahead, whether off-shore and inland."

The Coast Guard also announced a competition to name all four of the new helicopters. The nationwide competition will kick off next week and will be featured on Clare FM, Ocean FM, FM104, Q102 and WLR, including their Facebook sites. Listeners will be invited to send in their suggestions to these radio stations. The aim is to raise awareness locally of the new Coast Guard helicopters, and to inform people about how best to alert the Coast Guard or other emergency services in the event of an incident.

Enhanced medical capacity of Sikorsky S92

The S92 and its well-trained crews including State-registered paramedics can now provide a first class medical service in emergencies and for medical transfers.

Inter-hospital transfers, donor organ recipient transfers, specialist medical teams can now be transported in this modern, reliable and safe aircraft which with its large multi role cabin and rear access ramp which can accommodate stretchers, hospital trolleys, incubators, equipment and personnel .

It can also transfer specialised Ambulance Response and Mountain Rescue teams to an incident anywhere in the country at very short notice, for example train or bus crash or RTA (road traffic accident) requiring multi casualty evacuation.

The Coast Guard has surveyed over 50 landing sites countrywide but has focused mainly on needs in areas where road transport may not benefit the patient if urgent transport was required, especially in terms of transferring people to a centre of excellence within the 90 minute window which is the requirement in the majority of cases when a casualty needs immediate medical attention at a nominated medical centre as directed by HSE staff.

The area of operation in the Irish EEZ (Economic Exclusion Zone) will also be expanded to nearly 300 miles offshore and using the S92's satellite communications, long-range and discreet communications suite, which means that casualty information can be transmitted to the receiving hospital.

Technical information on Sikorsky S92

The capability to be on-scene to a maritime incident in any weather conditions in a shorter time period is largely enhanced due in the main to four main attributes of the aircraft:

Speed: Up to 150kts and doesn't lose speed at altitude, will carry 22 casualties at max range with twin engines each delivering 2500 SHP.
Range: Will have an ROA of 270mls from Waterford and can enhance that with auxiliary tanks.
De-icing: In adverse weather where rotor icing is an issue this aircraft can fly at 10.00ft in conditions of minus 40dgs C.
Performance: Modern reliable engines which deliver more power coupled with three programme linked navigational software , searchlight capability of 30 million candle power , dual high speed winches, high resolution picture zoom, memory mapping, adjacent aircraft detection capability, hi-tech communication systems, large multi role cabin, HEMS licenced, 8 passenger seats, reliable single engine performance, enhanced hover performance and in-flight homing equipment.

The Department of Transport and Coast Guard are members of the Marine Safety Working Group which promotes the importance of water safety for professional and leisure users.

Initiatives launched in 2013 included:

• Slipway signage advising people to use a Personal Flotation Device (lifejacket).
• Launch of new safetyonthewater.ie website
• New Poster Campaign promoting the use of Personal Flotation Devices and communication/alerts devices.
• Promotion of Water Safety on RTE's Search & Rescue show and a new Coast Guard water safety advertisement for TV.
• Wristband IDs for children using the beach or other recreational facilities.

The Marine Safety Working Group comprises:
Irish Coast Guard (IRCG),
Irish Maritime Administration of the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport,
Irish Water Safety,
Waterways Ireland,
Health and Safety Authority,
Royal Lifeboat Institution,
Bord Iascaigh Mhara
Met Eireann
Irish Sailing Association(ISA).

Published in Coastguard
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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