| 18.3°C Dublin

Helicopter heroes are hailed for 50 years

The most decorated wing of the Defence Forces has marked five decades of active service with a now and then review of operations.

More than 2,300 search and rescue operations and 4,000 air ambulance missions have been carried out since the first helicopter touched down at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, 50 years ago today.

A French trawler floundering off the west coast of Ireland sparked the country's first sea and rescue mission on December 23, 1966.

Fast forwarding five decades, elite Army Rangers marked the anniversary with a dramatic display of fast roping 30ft from an AW139 over the Curragh Camp in darkness.


The men and women of No 3 Operations Wing have saved countless lives over the years and are said to be a testament to the Air Corps' motto – Forfaire agus Tairiseact (Watchful and Loyal).

Commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Clancy, said the unit's heroism has been repeated over the years.

"This unit is the most decorated unit in the Defence Forces," said Lt Col Clancy.

"In a period of 50 years, 22 distinguished service medals have been awarded."

Lt Col Clancy was awarded a Department of Marine Meritorious Medal for his role in a dangerous rescue mission in March 2002. He paid tribute to fallen colleagues.

"We have a motto here, That Others May Live ," Lt Col Clancy added. "It's that motto that these people have exemplified and lived through their actions."