The Shannon based Irish Coast Guard helicopter was taken out of service for several hours on Tuesday so that a manufacturer ordered safety check could be undertaken.
All operators of the Sikorsky S-92A helicopter worldwide were advised to ground their aircraft early on Tuesday until a precautionary maintenance and inspections of the tail rotor could be undertaken.
CHC Ireland operates search and rescue (SAR) services under contract to the Department of Transport and Irish Coast Guard from bases at Dublin, Waterford, Sligo and Shannon which became the country’s first search and rescue (SAR) base in 1991.
The state-of-the-art S-92A helicopter was introduced into the Coast Guard in 2012 and over the following year, the entire fleet of S-61N aircraft were replaced in a phase process.
The first S-92A to enter service was a brand new aircraft while the other four, one of which operates as a spare helicopter, previously flew with the UK Coast Guard service.
Sikorsky issued a worldwide ‘Air Service Bulletin, early on Tuesday, following an incident involving an S-92A on the West Franklin rig in the North Sea platform last month.
CHC and the Irish Coast Guard immediately began the process of inspecting aircraft but requested that they stagger the process to ensure continuity of service.
The Shannon based helicopter was first to be grounded on Wednesday so that the inspection could be carried out. The process took about four hours.
The Sligo helicopter was scheduled to be inspected next but was tasked at the request of the HSE to undertake a patient transport mission from Mayo to Dublin. Work on that aircraft was completed on Wednesday morning instead.
Irish Coast Guard operations manager Gerard O’Flynn confirmed: “This was an obligatory test ordered to be carried out on all S-92’s across the world. We were able to stagger the inspections to ensure we had no loss of service.”
“We had no calls on Wednesday that we had to turn down as a result of the inspections. Our Sligo helicopter carried out a patient transfer mission on behalf of the HSE. That aircraft returned to base late on Wednesday evening so that check was carried the following morning,” Mr O’Flynn added.
“No other restrictions were placed on the Coast Guard and we are fully operational. We are not aware of any issues arising out of these inspections,” he said.