Monday 18 December 2017

Canadian firm has helicopters across 30 countries

Sikorsky S-92 helicopter
Sikorsky S-92 helicopter
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Canada-based CHC is a major provider of helicopter services in about 30 countries around the world. Apart from search and rescue services, it also provides transport for oil and gas companies.

In 2012, it was awarded a new 10-year, €500m contract by the Government to operate the Coastguard search and rescue helicopter service. CHC has now provided search and rescue services in Ireland for more than two decades. Prior to that, the Air Corps had provided Ireland's search and rescue capability.

The Air Corps indicated to then transport minister Noel Dempsey in 2010 that it could provide the service at a considerable discount to the price CHC was being paid, but Mr Dempsey reportedly declined to discuss the proposals.

A number of former Defence Forces personnel now work for CHC Ireland.

The CHC Ireland search and rescue service operates on a 24-hour, year-round basis using the Sikorsky S92 helicopters. They are new aircraft that were delivered in 2014.

The aircraft have enhanced equipment, such as forward-looking infra-red 'night sun' searchlights, satellite communications and auto-hover technology. Sikorsky is owned by US defence giant Lockheed Martin, which also makes the well-known Black Hawk military helicopter.

At an annual CHC group safety conference in Vancouver last year, chief executive Karl Fessenden said that the company is focused on "safety above all else".

Irish Coastguard helicopters completed a total of 886 missions last year, including airlifts of 61 patients from offshore islands to hospital. They transferred nine patients to the UK, primarily for organ transplants.

Earlier this year, CHC Ireland secured planning permission for the development of a new hangar and operations base at Dublin Airport.

Work on the project was set to start this month and be completed by summer 2018.

The latest set of publicly available accounts for CHC Ireland show it undertook 3,331 hours of search and rescue operations in the year to April 2015. Also in 2015, the helicopter search and rescue service completed a record of more than 1,000 missions.

It generated a profit of €3.4m in 2015 - almost eight times the amount it made in 2014 - as revenue rose 24pc to €52m.

Irish Independent

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