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Sunday 23 April 2017

Coast Guard set to ask for new fixed-wing planes for top Cover

HAZARD: Black Rock Lighthouse, 12km off Blacksod Picture: Steve Humphreys
HAZARD: Black Rock Lighthouse, 12km off Blacksod Picture: Steve Humphreys

Fresh appeals are to be made for the Coast Guard to be equipped with access to its own fixed-wing aircraft to provide top cover in the wake of the Rescue 116 disaster.

Senior staff in the Coast Guard are said to be growing increasingly frustrated at a lack of support and resources allocated from the Department of Transport.

Rescue 116 crashed last Monday night while it was providing top cover - observing and supporting a mission - for another helicopter, which was performing a medical evacuation at a boat off the west coast.

The search for the missing helicopter and three remaining crew members will continue today around Blackrock Lighthouse, 12km offshore from Blacksod Bay.

Internationally, top cover is usually provided by a fixed-wing aircraft.

However, the Coast Guard has no direct access to a fixed-wing aircraft and must apply to the Air Corps for support.

A second helicopter is deployed when the Air Corps cannot supply a plane.

No planes were available to assist with the operation last Monday night.

"This would seldom be done internationally," a senior Department source told the Sunday Independent.

"A helicopter is up to the job but it is not best practice and top cover would usually only be provided by a helicopter in exceptional circumstances in other jurisdictions.

"It is no fault of the Air Corps, because it is not their function."

Sunday Independent

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