#SAR - The report of a team appointed to review “oversight” in Ireland’s search and rescue aviation operations has been published.
Among its short-term recommendations is that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) “formally and clearly assigns” the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) “with responsibility for the legal and safety oversight” of civil aviation SAR.
In the medium term, it is recommended that the IAA be directed to develop “clear and unambiguous” regulatory material for SAR “that is appropriate to the scale and complexity of the national aviation system”, and that roles and responsibilities are “assigned appropriately … [with] a consistent, shared understanding”.
The report says it is “evident that the regulatory arrangements for search and rescue are a hybrid of maritime and aviation depending on which assets are deployed and in what circumstances.”
But it also stresses that Ireland “is not exceptional” in this regard, and that its recommendations show “learnings which will be relevant to other jurisdictions”.
Transport Minister Shane Ross has considered the report and accepts in full its 12 recommendations.
The review was conducted as a direct response to the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s (AAIU) interim statement in March as its own investigation into the Rescue 116 incident remains ongoing after more than a year due to its “depth and breadth”.
An international team of aviation and SAR experts worked on the report, which was completed in early August and submitted to the AAIU along with a series of follow-up actions to ensure full implementation of the its recommendations.
The AAIU says it has had an opportunity to consider the report in the context of its “wide-ranging investigation into the R116 accident and is happy that its publication does not jeopardise any other element of its ongoing investigation.”
As the report states, the review did not examine the specific circumstances in relation to the Rescue 116 accident and as such, there is no intention to establish any causal link between their findings and the accident.
Speaking upon the publication of the report today (Friday 21 September), Minister Ross said: “I have instructed that all necessary steps be taken without delay to ensure speedy implementation of all of the recommendations.
“As the report explains, search and rescue oversight and regulation is a complex matter, and international regulation is still endeavouring to keep pace with practice on the ground.
“However, we now have an opportunity in Ireland — and a blueprint – to make meaningful improvement to our current oversight structures, and in doing so set a benchmark for other jurisdictions.”
The minister said he will continue to provide updates to the AAIU on the progress in implementing these actions.