SAR 2012: Irish Coast Guard to receive UK MCA S-92s in 2013
The Irish Coast Guard’s new Sikorsky S-92A will commence operations from its Shannon SAR base in July, with the remaining four aircraft expected to transfer from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) contract in Scotland during 2013, according to CHC Ireland.
At the SAR Europe conference in Dublin on 15 March, representatives for the company outlined the introduction activities for the aircraft, which is part of a comprehensive fleet-wide replacement programme for the Irish Coast Guard.
Under the €500 million programme, CHC is contracted to provide SAR services to the coast guard through to 2022 from bases located near Shannon, Dublin, Waterford and Sligo.
CHC Ireland managing director Mark Kelly said the training programme for crews has been underway since October and will be completed by June, ready for the start of operations by 1 July.
Until now it wasn't clear when the remaining four S-92s operated by CHC for the UK MCA would transfer to Ireland. Under the new accelerated Gap SAR contract announced in February - launched following the collapse of the 25-year-long SAR-H programme - Bristow will take over SAR operations out of Stornoway and Sumburgh from July 2013.
The new S-92A features the new Phase III gearbox and has been fitted out to Irish Coast Guard requirements with a RIPS anti-icing system, Goodrich dual hoist, L-3 Wescam MX-15 EO-IR system, and Nightsun XP searchlight.
The latter two systems are operated from an aircrew mission station in the back of the aircraft, with information and imagery able to be pushed to the pilots’ displays. The pilots’ navigation system can also highlight where on the map the MX-15 is pointing.
Derek Everitt, a paramedic winchman with CHC Ireland, said the rear access ramp and the large multi-role cabin were also a significant increase in capability from the legacy Sikorsky S-61s. The aircraft is reconfigurable for particular SAR or mountain rescue roles, and is rated for full HEMS operations.
‘It’s a purpose built search and rescue helicopter with greater lift, greater range and greater lift capacity. And a marked improvement on the S-61,’ Everitt said.
‘The crews are finding out things with the aircraft every day in relation to what it can do, its power performance and power margins and we feel this is the way forward for search and rescue – not only in Ireland but in Europe and worldwide.’
Kelly noted the importance of the anti-icing system, which will allow crews to fly to incidents in a straight line through known icing conditions, drastically reducing response times. The company is also considering introducing an NVG capability in the future.
Source: By Tony Skinner in Dublin, Ireland - 15 March 2012 - Shephard News
Photo: The Irish Coast Guard’s new Sikorsky S-92A SAR (Photo by Shephard Group)