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New €500m search and rescue choppers

THE first of Ireland's new high-tech search and rescue helicopters will be delivered in July 2012 as part of a €500m deal.

The Sikorsky S-92A long-range chopper will enter service at Shannon as part of the Coast Guard helicopter fleet.

The state-of-the-art helicopters will also be based at Dublin, Cork, Sligo and Waterford.

"The S-92A will be introduced in a phased way commencing at Shannon in mid-2012," a spokesman for CHC Helicopter told the Herald.

"All bases will be fully transitioned before the end of 2013," he added.

CHC was awarded a 10-year, €500m contract to provide SAR services for the Irish Coast Guard in a contract signed by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey during the summer.


The S-92A will replace the ageing Sikorsky S-61N fleet, which is currently featured in the six-part RTE documentary series, Rescue 117, aired on Monday evenings.

Eight years ago, then Defence Minister Michael Smith cancelled an order for S-92As for the Air Corps on cost grounds.

The Coast Guard later took over the Air Corps' SAR role. The decision followed the fatal crash of an Air Corps Dauphin helicopter in which four died. The new S-92A has one of the largest cabins in its class, at 20ft long, and can carry up to 33 survivors.

It has a range of up to 300 miles and can fly at 150 knots. The twin-engined helicopter can fly faster and further than the S-61N now in use and can be used in flooding situations.

It also has the ability of carrying teams of firefighters to tackle fires on ships.

It will be equipped with infra- red and low-light cameras, a satellite communications system and high-speed dual hoists for winching up survivors.