CHC Helicopter, search and rescue (SAR) operator for the Irish Coast Guard, currently has four bases in Ireland: Waterford, Shannon, Sligo and Dublin. In 2012, CHC began its latest contract with the Irish Coast Guard: a 10-year contract with the option of a three-year extension. Rotor & Wing sat down with Chris Hodson, CHC’s general operations manager for SAR services, to speak more about the company’s current operations and what current plans are for the future.
According to Hodson, as a part of the contract, CHC swapped out the existing Sikorsky S-61 airframes for S-92s.
CHC Sikorsky S-92. Photo courtesy of CHC Helicopter
“[The S-92] has very new technology, specifically designed for search and rescue, has a longer range, a much improved cruising speed and a very comprehensive set of search and rescue technology on board,” said Hodson. “That combination of speed, technology and also some very severe weather in the North Atlantic that year, allowed us to complete and carry out a more significant number of missions than we have in the years past, and this year seems to be starting off the same way. It’s a very busy time and I just think the choice of the technology and the performance and ability of the crews and our partnership with the Irish Coast Guard has just given us the opportunity to be a very effective search and rescue force in the region.”
The significant number of missions Hodson referred to was the 310 SAR missions CHC’s Shannon base completed in 2014.
“It was a milestone for any of our operations, any of the four bases in Ireland, to complete 300 missions, and the Shannon Base ended off the year with 310,” stated Hodson. “It was a real milestone to have one aircraft on one base complete so many missions out into the North Atlantic. It was quite an accomplishment for the crew.”
Looking ahead, CHC is planning on integrating even more modern technology into its S-92 fleet.
“Going forward into the year ahead, we’re partnering with the Irish Coast Guard and bringing night vision goggle technology onto the aircraft themselves,” said Hodson. “That process will start the spring of this year and will take some time to complete, but that is probably our main focus for bringing new technology onto the aircraft themselves.”
Hodson also mentioned CHC’s partnerships with Ireland’s Health Services Executive, the country’s national health department, and the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC), which are both medical departments within the Irish Coast Guard. By partnering with these two organizations, CHC makes sure that its paramedics and emergency care technicians are aligned with the best practices that are being used within the Republic of Ireland.
Hodson continued to say that CHC’s mission would not be possible without its dedicated crews.
“At the end of the day, they’re the ones who are out there doing the job day in and out and it’s their skill, their passion and their expertise that’s helping people come home safely at the end of every day in often very challenging weather and situations,” said Hodson. “They are the people out there who are making sure the people of Ireland are getting home safely every day when they’re in trouble.”
Related: SAR News