Friday 20 October 2017

Brave helicopter pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick spoke often about her love of her job

Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick with former crew (not involved in crash) Pic: Miki Barlok
Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick with former crew (not involved in crash) Pic: Miki Barlok
Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar pictured with the crew of the new Coast Guard Sikorsky S92 helicopter for the East Coast region at the launch of the new helicopter at Weston Airport this morning..The crew are from left, Winchman Dermot Molloy Capt. Ed Sullivan, and Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick ....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
The crew of the new Coast Guard Sikorsky S92 helicopter for the East Coast region at the launch of the new helicopter at Weston Airport this morning..The crew are from left, Winch Operator, Paul Ormsby, Capt. Ed Sullivan, Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick and Winchman Dermot Molloy....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The sister of tragic Coast guard captain Dara Fitzpatrick has paid tribute and asked others to pray for the three missing crew.

Capt Fitzpatrick was one of very few female civilian pilots worldwide.

She featured in the RTE series Rescue 117 leading dramatic rescues by the crew at Waterford helicopter base.

A well-regarded pilot, Capt Fitzpatrick had over 20 years flying experience and was chief pilot in Waterford since 2002. She described her job as "challenging and exciting" during the filming of Rescue 117.

Her sister, renowned psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick, took to Twitter this afternoon to pay tribute.

She wrote: "My brave sister Capt Dara Fitzpatrick lost her life in #Rescue116 crash. We are devastated. Please pray for recovery of 3 remaining crew."

Speaking today Gerard Flynn, VS&T Operations Manager of the Irish Coast Guard, said: "Dara was the most senior pilot and has been with the company for close on 20 years.

"Outside of her work as a pilot she did an enormous amount of work on water safety and was always available to do school visits and promote water safety."

Captn Fitzpatrick spoke often about her love for her job.

Speaking to the 'Munster Express' in 2009, Capt Fitzpatrick said she was a native Dubliner, but more than happy to be living in Waterford at the time.

Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar pictured with Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain of the new Coast Guard Sikorsky S92 helicopter for the East Coast region at the launch of the new helicopter at Weston Airport this morning......Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar pictured with Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain of the new Coast Guard Sikorsky S92 helicopter for the East Coast region at the launch of the new helicopter at Weston Airport this morning......Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

Dara told the newspaper she first went up in a helicopter at the age of 18, and "thought it was the business".

"And that, pretty much, was it.

“I got my own licence and I was working for a businessman for a year, year and a half when the Coast Guard advertised for co-pilots.

“That was at a time when Shannon was the only Coast Guard helicopter base was in the country so I applied for it and got it. I stayed there until 2002 and came over to Waterford and I love it here.”

“I had another few layers to deal with after I was taken on by Search and Rescue,” she added.

“They had to teach me to fly a twin engine helicopter since I was used to flying single engined. They had to teach me how to fly by instruments – which is another separate, long course.

“And before I could go anywhere near Search and Rescue, I had to get used to flying the helicopter with two crew because I was used to flying in my little helicopter all by myself, so I went to Aberdeen for a year to fly onto oil rigs.

“So by the time I got taken on, it had taken a good year to get me ready to sit in the left-hand seat as a co-pilot.

“But then even when I started, for the first while you’re hanging out the back seat of it – you’re just so far behind it because when the jobs come in, everything is happening so quickly.”

In January 2008, Capt Fitzpatrick appeared on a video entitled 'Find A Balance Dare To Dream' DVD.

It was produced by the Irish Bishops' Conference and it covers the issue of alcohol and the challenge of moderation.

The production, which was aimed at young people, saw Capt Fitzpatrick stress the importance of finding balance in her job and how she took her responsibilities.

"When I was about 18 or 19, all I wanted to do was economics or business or something. Didn't get the points I wanted to at school - just didn't work hard enough - and I heard an ad on the radio for a helicopter.

"I went up in a helicopter and that was it. I was hooked.

"Most people go 'oh there's so many buttons and dials and things', but it just takes a little bit of coordination.

"There are so many variables in this job. Like when we get a call here, you know the Coastguard will say there's a person injured here or fallen off a cliff in Dublin or something like that, you will have to in about two or three minutes, make a decision on whether we can go there and back and what fuel do I need.

"We can go up and save loads of people but there is no point in doing that if we can't get back. You just have to be able to think on your feet and also think about the consequences of making a decision. You have to be able to get back to land.

"I'm doing this about 15 years now which is a fair amount of time but it doesn't make any difference; it will still kick you in the ass. It really will. You will go along and you'll do loads of really, really good jobs and then one time, you will get a kick in the ass and it kind of wakes you up. You can't relax.

"The thing that I find the hardest is that everybody thinks it will never happen to them and again, you're picking somebody up out of the water. You probably don't think so much about the casualties, because you can't. You can't afford to. Because sometimes you might pick somebody up and you have another two to three hours transit with a badly injured casualty or a body in the back. When you drop them off to hospital or bring them to a quay or whatever, when that flight is over, you've got to turn the page and move on. And you can't really think about it too much."

She was also prominently featured in RTE's documentary Rescue 117 documentary.

"You never know what you are going to face, you could be called up to the mountains, you could be called because someone has fallen off a cliff. You could be called at 2 o'clock in the morning being called to an injured fisherman on a boat," she said on camera during the documentary.

"There is huge variety here, you really don't know what you're facing. I think most of us enjoy that. That's the bit of the job that we actually like because you just don't know what's going to happen for the next few hours."

 

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