CHC HELICOPTERS announced today, January 14, that the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) completed a record number of missions during 2014, moving 730 people from danger to safety, often in challenging weather conditions. CHC Helicopter’s general operations manager for search-and-rescue (SAR) services, Chris Hodson, said the crews completed 904 missions, an increase of 15 percent year-on-year – and more than any year in the previous decade.
“Our SAR crews are highly trained and dedicated to serving the people in their communities,” said Mr Hodson. “Their professionalism and dedication, as well as high aircraft availability, are allowing our crews to return people home safely from an even greater number of dangerous situations.”
The IRCG service is delivered using Sikorsky S-92 helicopters from four bases – Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford – in partnership with CHC Helicopter, a leading global helicopter operator with bases in over 30 countries around the world. The Shannon base had a particularly busy year, completing more than 300 missions – the highest number ever from one base.
Chris Reynolds, director of the Irish Coast Guard, said he is thankful for the professionalism and dedication of the crews. “I want to thank all the Coast Guard crews at Shannon, Dublin, Waterford and Sligo for their fantastic work throughout the year, moving people from places of danger to places of safety, day and night, winter and summer,” said Mr Reynolds.
High aircraft availability is one of the reasons behind the high number of missions, explained Mr Hodson. “CHC operates one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated SAR networks and we continue to invest in our fleet and in our bases,” he said. “For example, in the past 30 months we have replaced the Sikorsky S-61 fleet with five new-technology Sikorsky S-92s.”
As well as allowing longer range and improved cruising speeds, the new fleet is equipped with enhanced mission equipment, including forward-looking infrared (FLIR) low-light cameras, night sun searchlights and satellite communications systems.
CHC has also invested in its facilities and leading-edge operating tools, systems and processes. “We’ve improved the efficiency of our engineering processes and our team,” said Mr Hodson. “In Shannon, for instance, major maintenance inspections are now completed in half the time, meaning that our helicopters can spend more time in the air serving the people who depend on us.”
In 2014, the Sligo base recorded an 18-percent increase in missions (to 277), Shannon a 12-percent increase (310) and Waterford a 32-percent increase (187), and Dublin completed 130 missions.
A CHC SAR crew in Sligo this past year was awarded the Frederick L Feinberg award for outstanding achievement for a SAR mission completed in the Bluestack Mountains in Donegal in 2013. This mission was also recognised by Sikorsky with the Winged-S Rescue Award.’
CHC was chosen in 2010 for the ten-year, €500 million contract to provide SAR services on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard. Alan Warnes