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No helipad access for the Coast Guard at new NCH

At present, the Aircraft Flight Manual for the Sikorsky S92A helicopters used by the Coast Guard does not include rooftop helipad take-off/landing profiles. However, helicopters used by the Irish Air Corps can land on rooftops designed and certified for such operations.

The Air Corps and Coast Guard are both tasked with air ambulance missions via the HSE National Aeromedical Co-ordination Centre (NACC), although the Air Corps would conduct a significantly higher proportion.

A National Paediatric Hospital Development Board spokesperson told MI that the Coast Guard’s helicopters would land in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and patients would be transferred by road. This is the current process for patients being transported to St James’s Hospital, Dublin.

An “international helicopter expert” has been engaged to undertake the design of the proposed helipad and there is “close consultation” with the Air Corps and Department of Defence. The helipad will have “direct and rapid access” to the critical care, theatre and emergency departments within the NCH. “Use of elevated landing sites on the roof of buildings is widespread in the UK and Europe,” added the spokesperson.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) inspects and licences rooftop helipads within the State. An IAA spokesperson told MI that it has had initial discussions with the developers of the NCH. It has not yet been presented with a detailed application for a helipad.

Between 1 July 2012 and 6 October 2015, the Coast Guard conducted 560 air ambulance missions, with the highest number emanating from its Sligo base (264) and the lowest from its Dublin base (31). These mainly involved emergency aeromedical support, in addition to a small number of inter-hospital transfers and neonate transports at night-time. 

In June, the Air Corps marked its 1000th mission under the Emergency Aeromedical Service that commenced in June 2012. The service is an Air Corps-HSE partnership with backup from the Coast Guard. Additionally, the Air Corps undertakes around 130 inter-hospital transfer missions annually.

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