New Search and Rescue Aviation Service contract signed

A helicopter and two fixed-wing aircraft will be based at Shannon Airport under a new search and rescue contract for Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Aviation Service which was signed today.

The controversial contract, which was unsuccessfully challenged in the High Court, see Bristow Ireland Limited, a subsidiary of Bristow Group, take over responsibility for operations currently being undertaken by CHC Ireland.

In May, the Minister for Transport announced Bristow Ireland was the preferred bidder for the new contract.

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CHC Ireland, the current provider of the service here, brought a legal challenge against the minister claiming there were a number of flaws in the conduct of the tender competition. As a result, an automatic suspension on the awarding of the new contract kicked in.

The minister then applied to the High Court to have it lifted. CHC opposed the application however the suspension was lifted.

Confirming that the new contract had been signed, the Department and the Irish Coast Guard said they will work closely with Bristow Ireland Limited as it provides a range of essential state services under the new aviation service contract. These will include Maritime and Inland Search and Rescue, Environmental Monitoring, Helicopter Emergency Medical and Air Ambulance Services, with enhanced mission control and communications systems.

The Company will operate six specialised SAR-configured AW189 helicopters from four dedicated bases in Sligo, Shannon, Waterford, and Dublin Weston. The AW189s will be configured with the latest evolution of mission system reflecting the requirements of the Irish Coast Guard.

In an expansion to the current service for the Irish Coast Guard, two specialised King Air fixed-wing aircraft will provide operational support from Shannon Airport for search and rescue and environmental monitoring. The fixed-wing element of the service will also provide highly sophisticated aircraft mission management and communications systems (in coordination with the helicopter fleet).

The fixed wing aircraft will also be available to provide ‘Top Cover’ support to helicopters engaged in long range medical evacuations.

Bristow will deliver nationwide all-weather 24-hour coverage, 365 days a year. Under the new contract, Bristow will create or sustain more than 150 jobs ranging from specialist ground support, engineering, flight operations, and in-country maintenance and support capabilities, ensuring its teams and aircraft stand at full readiness to respond to tasking from the Irish Coast Guard.

CHC Ireland currently operates five Sikorsky S92A helicopters as part of its contact in Ireland – File Photo

The 10-year contract has options to extend an additional three years, allowing for a total of 13 years for these new aviation services.

“The entire team at Bristow Ireland Limited is honoured to be chosen to deliver this critical and life-saving public service for the people of Ireland,” said Alan Corbett, Bristow’s Chief Operating Officer, Government Services. “We look forward to collaborating closely with the Irish Department of Transport, Irish Coast Guard, and all stakeholders as we prepare to deliver this critical public service.

“We will provide a safe, dependable, and innovative service that will deliver world-class search and rescue across the country. Bristow Ireland Limited will implement Bristow’s globally recognised and industry-leading ‘Target Zero’ safety culture in Ireland, to ensure safety is at the forefront of every flight we take, and each decision made,” added Corbett.

The contract makes provision for the possibility of the Air Corps assuming responsibility for the fixed wing element of the service after five years.

The new IRCG aviation service will be introduced by Bristow Ireland Limited gradually on a phased basis and will be fully operational by July 2025.


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