View Full Version : Air Corps SAR

Goldie fish
17th December 2003, 17:32
Just heard on the radio,the Minister announced that the Air Corps will no longer be involved in SAR operations in the North West.
Is this the end of Air Corps SAR?
More info to follow.

B Inman
17th December 2003, 21:53
Mr Smith announced in Baldonnel today that a programme would commence early next year to replace the current light helicopters in use by the Aer Corps. (RTE 6.1 News)

Goldie fish
17th December 2003, 23:06
6.1 News (http://www.rte.ie/news/2003/1217/6news/6news56_9a.smil)

So is the minister admitting that the Private company was better at the job than the Air Corps? The only reason this is the case is that the equipment provided to the air corps was primative and unsuitable in comparison.

At least a new era in Heliops will(possibly) begin with a single heli type.
Who wants to start the ball rolling? My money is on the EC135..

17th December 2003, 23:12
Not to take anything away from the lads in the Aer Corps, but private industry will nearly always provide a better service than any government agency. It's the nature of the beast.


17th December 2003, 23:44
Well since almost all of the CHC employees in Ireland are ex-IAC anyway...I think Goldies statement holds more merit.

18th December 2003, 00:04
Whatever the reason for the superior performance of CHC ( better equipment, etc) it seems that the service was better. The fact that most of the staff are ex-IAC is not relevant. If the IAC equipment is of a lesser standard......well it just goes to prove my previous post.

Like I said, not a reflection on the IAC guys themselves.....just an informed opinion on the merits of private industry over govt inefficiency.


18th December 2003, 07:21
Would it have anything to do with the "Industrial Action" in the North-West recently?

18th December 2003, 10:33
Helicopter rescue service 'to go private'
Don Lavery
The Irish Independent

THE €16.3m Air Corps search and rescue (SAR) service for the north-west was axed yesterday by Minister for Defence Michael Smith, who said it will be privatised.

The Sligo-based service, hit in October by what Mr Smith called "an unusually high incidence of sickness" among air crew, will be provided commercially.

Mr Smith, who also announced a plan to procure a new fleet of light helicopters to replace aircraft - some of which are 40 years old - claimed the decision was made because the Air Corps was unable to retain full specialist skills needed for a modern 24-hour SAR service.

A spokesman for the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) said: "We are extremely disappointed with the decision." Soldiers' representative group PDFORRA was also disappointed the Air Corps would have no role in search and rescue in the region after 40 years.

Sources said some Air Corps personnel who moved to Sligo to train on the large medium-lift S-61 helicopter were in shock. In October, the service was hit by a sudden outbreak of illness among crew after a pay claim by winch crews was withdrawn, although an offer had been made by the Department of Defence.

A shortage of winch operators meant the Corps could not take part in rescue missions but was available for searches, air ambulance duties and island relief.

Mr Smith said the Air Corps would continue to train personnel to SAR standards, and would be available to the Coast Guard.

In July, Mr Smith told the Dail he was committed to maintaining the Air Corps's role in providing SAR services and to this end the S-61 helicopter was being acquired for the north-west.

Senior Defence Forces sources said they were "extremely concerned" about whether medium-lift helicopters would ever be bought, despite commitments by Mr Smith. He cancelled plans to acquire five such helicopters in 2002 because of cutbacks. It was unclear last night how many light helicopters would be bought. The Air Corps had sought eight Agusta 109 helicopters but sources said five would be purchased. An €8.4m Learjet 45 executive jet is to join the Ministerial Air Transport Service this week, to allow the Air Corps extra capability during Ireland's EU Presidency.

18th December 2003, 10:48
The Aer corp in Sligo had the same aircraft and equipment as the coastguard.Put it down to mismanagement.

18th December 2003, 12:01
The Irish Times

Ireland Thu, Dec 18, 03

Air Corps to cease search and rescue
Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

The Government is to end all Air Corps involvement in search-and-rescue services, putting the money saved towards the purchase of a new fleet of light helicopters.

The search-and-rescue service based in Sligo, the only one currently operated by the Air Corps, has been beset by staffing problems and a dispute over pay, conditions and safety for several months. It will now be transferred to private operation, joining the other units at Dublin, Shannon and Waterford which are operated by the company CHC.

Announcing the decision yesterday, the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, said the new fleet of light utility helicopters would allow the Air Corps "to provide an extended range of services, including, in particular, supporting important military interoperability training programmes".

This includes "interoperability" with the military forces of other countries in operations abroad.

In his statement, Mr Smith said he "acknowledged the efforts of Air Corps management and staff to maintain an operational SAR [search-and-rescue] service in the north-west and, in particular, the dedication and commitment of key personnel in the search-and-rescue service".

However a spokesman for PDFORRA, which represents many of the search and rescue personnel, said last night he was "saddened and disappointed" at the decision. The decision to pull out of the Sligo operation follows months of dispute over pay and safety issues.

The helicopter winching crews at one point had a pay claim but it was withdrawn from arbitration during last summer.

PDFORRA, which represents the crews, maintained that Air Corps staff are serving alongside more highly paid search-and-rescue crews working for CHC.

It says a specialist report drawn up by Air Corps management last year found that the salary for winch operators in CHC/Irish Coast Guard was €48,000 to €58,000 annually, compared to a maximum salary of €37,000 for the Air Corps. A substantial proportion of the winching staff in Sligo have been on sick leave since the summer, and in October the winching staff were redeployed to Air Corps headquarters in Baldonnel.

PDFORRA attributed the level of sick leave being taken to "a hostile and difficult working environment, with harassment and related stress".

He denied there was any "work-to-rule" or withdrawal of services by crews for any reason other than illness and stress.

The Department of Defence said it plans to publish a notice inviting tenders for the supply of the helicopters in the Official Journal of the European Community early in the New Year.

The new aircraft would help the Air Corps provide support to the Army and provide additional support in the areas of surveillance, airlift, inshore rescue, medevac, air ambulance, island relief and hospital transfers, said the Minister.

The Air Corps will now dispose of the current Alouette, Dauphin and Gazelle aircraft.

The PDFORRA spokesman, Mr Gerry Rooney, said last night his organisation was saddened and disappointed that after 40 years the Air Corps will no longer be involved in search-and-rescue.

© The Irish Times

18th December 2003, 13:06
finally the aircorps has shot itself in the foot, game over flyboys, this is fantastic stuff, you handed your own heads on a plate to smith and Mc Creevy, lets see,

well we need cash so lets cut out the crap SAR service and dispose of the flying tins and with the money we get we'll buy them a token 5 decent light choppers so that they look like theyre doing something and it'll take the glare off berties shiny new flying limo.

Now lets move before they realise that the NEXT time we need choppers we'll have to lose some other capability first...

this is bloody great. mismanagement indeed!

this sh*te has gone on long enough, heads should f*cking roll and NOW.

the Aircorps fleet is constantly shrinking along with the number of useful public service roles it performs.

18th December 2003, 13:15
I think it's a shame that there have to be cutbacks in other areas before there is investment in new. They talk about military interoperability, in what way? troop transport? Those LUH, if we ever get them, will carry at most 6 fully equipped soldiers, where with the medium-lifts we could carry 20. The only candidate I see that could be armed is the Augusta 109.

And I think Morpheus is spot on, we'll get a token of what is due.

18th December 2003, 13:46
we'll get a token of what is due.




What is 'due' is decided by the Government, they make policy so they are the final arbiter. The fact that we may not agree with them is hardly of relevance to the decision they take.

Also arming these helis is of dubious usefulness. Anything smaller than a 212 won't really have space enough for a door gun along with proper ingress/exit for troops. Putting rocket or machine gun pods on them will mean v little extra capacity for troops (GW vs ULW), and anyone who wants to use a machine like this for CAS needs to get their heads examined. And still, all of the products in the sector can be offered with an armament package.

The simple fact of the matter is that small LUH helis are only really military in name, particularly for a force structure like ours where there are no 'heavy' assets there to back them up. The Alouette has done 40 years service, the vast majority of which has been spent without any 'military' equipment on board (save soldiers IW). Chances are its replacement will do exactly the same.

If I were to guess, I'd say the AC will end up with 6-8 Eurocopter 130 or 635s (A109 has gone out of favour, someone must've spoken to the Belgians).

Best to be hoped for would be 10 EC635s and 4-6 NH90s. But thats just fantasy. Interesting to see that interoperability is being mentioned for the first time though, thats a major forward step.

Bud Fox
18th December 2003, 15:18
With interoperability being mentioned with the "military forces of other countries in operations abroad"....Could this be done with 5-6 LUH's??? & knowing the IAC's luck 5 R22's

18th December 2003, 16:48
I dunno Bud Fox, a few r44s mightn't be bad. They'd do the job for covert ops in this country (they sound like tractors on feilds, so no one'd notice the noise! :xlol: :xlol: :xlol: )

Seriously, it's a sad day to see the Air Corps lose SAR in Sligo. I dunno what happened up there, but methinks, right or wrong, the minister's not for turning. And the fact the minister chose the 17th -of all days- to announce it, that was cold. :(

The Joker
18th December 2003, 17:38
So what would the new role of the AC involve now that SAR is gone...

Bud Fox
18th December 2003, 17:43
MATS & more it!!

Goldie fish
18th December 2003, 17:45
Ministerial transport. A fleet of Business jets and helis just for that purpose,and 2 seater trainers for the backbenchers..

Bud Fox
18th December 2003, 17:47
at this rate we could talk Bertie into some F16's so he could get to Brussels that little bit faster.

23rd December 2003, 11:52
So I presume that the S61's lease will be terminated and the aircraft returned?

24th December 2003, 15:03
You got it in one.;)

24th December 2003, 19:59
Well what in hell did you expect? When you have what is in effect either a mutiny or malingering which was not nipped in the bud, how can you trust the Air Corpse to fulfil any mission. Ally this to the consistent failure to fulfil any mission given to it and it can be seen as what it is - an expensive white elephant. It was obvious what was going to happen. Now you can confidently expect the Corpse to function as the biggest flying club in the country.

2nd January 2004, 15:39
Article in today's Irish Times (01/1/04) about the hand over of SAR function, by Lorna Siggins. As ever, misses the point, but it does pose some interesting questions.

2nd January 2004, 17:12
Here's the article from Ireland.com:

The privatisation of air search and rescue is unnecessary and wasteful, writes Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Forty years ago this Christmas, a distress message was picked up from a French fishing vessel off the Connemara coast. The Emerance had lost engine power, was drifting towards rocks, and the crew of 16 were taking to the liferafts. Weather conditions were deteriorating when Comdt Barney McMahon, Lieut Fergus O'Connor and Sgt Peter Sheeran took off from Casement Aerodrome at Baldonnel, west Dublin, and flew 160 miles to the rescue.

Their aircraft, an Alouette helicopter, had only been delivered several weeks before from France, and this was the crew's first official search and rescue mission. Until then, the State had been totally dependent for air rescue on the British military. The new helicopter had no liferaft, the most basic of safety gear, and an "atrocious radio". The pilot was still trying to find the fishing vessel, or liferafts, when he ran low on fuel.

The helicopter was over north Connemara when Comdt McMahon spotted a possible landing "pad" - a handball alley, just outside Clifden. He touched down, rustled up the owner of a local garage, contacted the local priest for the essential paraffin mix, and procured a set of nylons from the garage owner's wife to use as a filter. The crew were airborne again and en route to the Aran islands when they were told that the liferafts had been located by several other fishing vessels, and the 16 Frenchmen were safe and well.

Forty years and thousands of rescue missions later, members of the Air Corps search and rescue detachment from number 3 Operations Wing have just spent their final Christmas on duty on the west coast. An island medical evacuation was one of the last missions carried out in a highly-equipped medium-lift Sikorsky helicopter, based at Sligo Airport. In several weeks' time, the Irish Air Corps logo painted on the Sikorsky will be removed, as private operator CHC Helicopters takes over the base and the Air Corps is officially stood down from search and rescue altogether.

If the 10 pilots who moved to Sligo are in a state of shock over the decision, so are senior Irish Coast Guard officials who are ultimately responsible for State search and rescue. The announcement by the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, late last month represents the final blow to the defence wing, which experienced its worst accident in July, 1999, when four Dauphin helicopter crew died in Tramore, Co Waterford, on their return from a rescue mission.

A promise made then by the Minister for Defence to replace the helicopter fleet was not delivered upon. Last year, the Minister cancelled the contract for five medium-lift helicopters, ostensibly due to "cutbacks", but in reality due to the legal challenge mounted by an unsuccessful bidder when the contract became embroiled in politics.

The "compromise" for the Air Corps was a commitment to lease a medium-lift helicopter, until such time as a new contract was put out to tender. Over €11 million has been spent on the establishment of this new medium-lift base at Sligo Airport, and the target was to provide 24-hour cover from this autumn.

A pay claim submitted by winching crews through their union, PDFORRA, scuppered these plans, however. A wrangle over pay and safety issues deteriorated into a personality clash, winching staff went "sick", and the military then took the decision to redeploy them to non-flying duties back at Baldonnel - effectively restricting the Sikorsky to limited cover.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One news last month, the Minister justified his move to pull the Air Corps out of search and rescue altogether by referring to a "variety" of problems, including "blue flu". Fishermen's lives needed to be protected off the north-west, and the Air Corps could not guarantee this, he said.

However, fishing industry organisations have reacted angrily to this argument, stating that the Air Corps has provided invaluable cover to the fishing industry over the years. The Air Corps and Irish Coast Guard management had expected an interim arrangement might have to be provided until the industrial relations issues were sorted - or new winch crews trained. The Coast Guard had always made it clear that it did not want to be totally dependent on one private operator.

This total dependence has now come to pass, and the Minister's privatisation move - just a week before he took delivery of the new Government jet and boasted of Ireland's "€40 billion economy" - will have long-term consequences, and not just for search and rescue. It was the plight of upland farmers, rather than fishermen, which had precipitated State purchase of two Alouette helicopters, after the heavy snowfall of late 1962 and early 1963. Weather relief, services to offshore islands and medical evacuations in very difficult conditions have comprised some of the less publicised missions carried out by the Air Corps over the past four decades

Communities on Tory island in Co Donegal, which has no runway, Mayo's Clare Island, Inishturk and Inishbiggle, and Inishbofin, Co Galway, may all be affected by the reliance on one civilian operator. Whereas private helicopters are bound by civilian air regulations, Air Corps helicopters have been able to land in handball alleys, fields and in hospital car-parks in extreme circumstances. Health boards may also be hit with additional bills, as air ambulance flights - hitherto carried out at no charge by the Air Corps - may now have to be paid for.

But then the Department of Defence has had 40 years' practice of attempting to pass the buck. Barely a year after the Alouette helicopter purchase in the early 1960s, the same Department refused to finance provision of a suitable training launch for the helicopter crews in the Dublin area.

The Air Corps crew had to fly to the naval base at Haulbowline, Co Cork, to borrow a launch supplied by the then Commanding Officer. The cost of one helicopter flight to and from Cork would probably have paid for a year's lease on an east coast training boat. Lives may not be lost as a result of this decision, because the Irish Coast Guard is committed to maintaining a coastwide rescue service. However, with one callous and thoughtless stroke of a pen, the Government has thrown away years of experience and commitment, turned its back on those Air Corps families who opted to move to the north-west, and placed one private operator in an omnipotent position.

2nd January 2004, 17:19

Health boards may also be hit with additional bills, as air ambulance flights - hitherto carried out at no charge by the Air Corps - may now have to be paid for.

was the bit that got me. So the AC is supposed to do its jobs for free, being an all encompassing Govt Air Arm, jack of all trades and properly equipped for none?

First of all, no one is suggesting that the AC be stripped of its helicopters, hence, with the cessation of involvement in SAR, there may actually be more aircraft hours available for medical flights.

Secondly, these flights are not 'free' in any case, they are paid for out of the defence budget, which in turn comes from the national exchequer, just like the health budget. Supporting an amorphous Air Corps which is supposed to do 'everything', with no clear delineation on tasking, priorities and/or funding may well turn out to be much more expensive than having dedicated services. Stripping these functions from the AC might well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Irish military aviation.

Lastly, HEMS is a difficult, complicated and demanding task. It should not be done in 40 year old helicopters without adequate medical equipment on board, both for the sake of the patients and the crew. The era of 'bodging it' should be long over. Funnily enough, one of the outcomes of the furore over the Hanly report will probably be such a service, run on a professional basis.

Edited cos I still can't spell.

2nd January 2004, 17:31
A pay claim submitted by winching crews through their union, PDFORRA, scuppered these plans, however. A wrangle over pay and safety issues deteriorated into a personality clash, winching staff went "sick", and the military then took the decision to redeploy them to non-flying duties back at Baldonnel - effectively restricting the Sikorsky to limited cover.

She seems very definite about the cause of the problem, considering that the Times hasn't printed anything incisive about it.

2nd January 2004, 21:32
The times has taken a swipe at quite a few in this article.It has got the smell of spin about it.I wonder where lorna got her info from,let me guess.Who hasn't been blamed for the fiasco in Sligo. ;)

Goldie fish
6th April 2004, 18:37

The Truth is out there...eventually

7th April 2004, 12:15
As long as CHC keep up the contract for the Coast Guard off shore rescues I see little reason to have the IAC doing it aswell.Performing overland rescue though gives pilots a lot of flight time and and good practise in a wide range of situation in which Ireland would involve its helicopter if it sent them overseas ie medevac,night flights, SAR, transport etc.You have to keep pilots current anyway, why not give them something to do other than VIP/VUP (Very Unimportant Politicians) transport.The civil assistance jobs metioned above are great practise and challenging so what reasons are there against mercy flights, other other than not having helicopters to do them?

3rd May 2004, 15:01
All you Aer Corps fans will be pleased to learn of a new book entitled Mayday! Mayday! Heroic Rescues in Irish Waters. Page 13 of todays Irish Times carries an extract from the book about a clifftop rescue in Donegal by an Aer Corps crew in 1993. Excellent stuff. If anyone has an Irish Times account maybe they could reproduce it on the thread. As luck would have it, it's author is the above named Lorna Siggins.

Bud Fox
3rd May 2004, 17:08
A survivor's story

For 10 years Chris Rintoul, a social worker in Belfast, had lived with trauma, guilt and gratitude: trauma over his experience on Horn Head, Co Donegal, in 1993; guilt for surviving the horrendous fall which claimed the life of his close friend, Peter King; and immense gratitude to the four aircrew who risked their lives to save him as he clung desperately to the scrub grass which was between him and a 250-300 foot sheer drop.

His first child was born on September 26th, 2003 - 10 years and a day after that experience.

"It took me a long time to recover from it, and to cope with the fact that I made it and Peter didn't. For years I tried to blot it out, only to realise that I had to start acknowledging and remembering. I remember that I held on to the winchman's ribs so tightly that he was bruised afterwards - his injuries were worse than mine!

"The aircrew literally put their lives out for me. I often think there could have been six dead there that day.

"I have them to thank for my entire life and that isn't something you can say to many people.

"Not only were they courageous and highly professional, but they were also very sensitive - on the day and afterwards at the inquest into Peter's death.

"It is that sensitivity, that humanity, that I was struck by most."

31st May 2004, 05:01
Not wishing to enter the political debate re IAC and CHC SAR capabilities but does anyone know what is happening at Sligo? I understood that it had been taken over by CHC but I notice that the IAC are still flying there. Any news?:confused:

31st May 2004, 15:35
I may be wrong in this, but I believe I heard, the private operators for SAR, in both Ireland & the UK, can only conduct missions within specific weather conditions (VFR/IFR I think), while military operators can launch if the Pilot believes it is safe to do so. I know of cases in the UK, where the civilian operator had to call the RAF as they were not allowed to launch. Obviously the majority of coastal/oceanic SAR calls will be in bad weather conditions.

1st June 2004, 02:56
You are wrong with your thread.The reason for the delay is due to the dept of finance not releasing the funds.Its out of the Aer corp and CHC's hands at the moment.

1st June 2004, 04:26
I may be wrong about the Irish situation, but this is definitely the situation in the UK.

A government report & review of Air/Sea Rescue Services published in Feb 1990, known as the Doherty Report recommended the following:

2 Medium range helicopters operated by AC (Sea King or similar)
In the interim, a private contract to provide medium range service as a matter of urgency

This was adopted as government policy on 2 August 1990, and from 1991 Irish Helicopters began operating a S61 from Shannon.

Just like in Lebanon with UNIFIL, INTERIM means the long finger

26th October 2005, 16:54
i was reading about the privatising of the SAR, from an article in 2004....do the Air Corps participate in SAR now, or whats the story?


my apologies if this post seems stupid, but its an area i would be very interested in working in,and i just wanted information from people who know all about the 3 military branches.

26th October 2005, 17:26
See this thread:

As others will point out there is a very useful function on the board, it can be time consuming to find what you want, but its better than a slagging, it called the search function.

28th October 2005, 10:48
Hi there
There's no SAR in the AC any more, but there are crewman positions in the helicopters.These crewmen assist the pilot during the takeoff and landing phases of flight, by watching out for obstacles. They also brief potential passengers about the requirements to be observed (such as; don't walk to the rear after getting out as you might get a smack of the tail rotor) for heli-borne flight. There are also crew positions on the Casa Maritime aircraft, but these tend to be offered to specialist photographers or signalmen. Civil SAR companies, such as the Coastguard or CHC helicopters tend to use experienced ex-military people, but not always exclusively. If you really,really want to do it, contact the heli companies based out of Aberdeen, serving the offshore industry and see what they have to offer.

28th October 2005, 11:03
Is winching training etc still carried out?

5th November 2005, 19:44
The new AC helis are specified with SAR winches, so presumably SAR training will continue.

The DoD also list the AC as being 'secondary SAR providers' ?!

6th November 2005, 20:50
In other words when there is a major disaster