This year was a busy year for Air Ambulance Missions for the Air Corps. They completed 103 Air Ambulance missions up to 31 December 2013, including national and international transfers of patients.
The Air Corps’ unique ability to conduct multiple mission using fixed wing and rotary wing assets meant that there were several days in 2013 when several Air Ambulance Missions were completed at the same time. The Air Corps also launched a time critical Air Ambulance to London in the early hour of 26 December with the patient arriving in time for specialist treatment.
The increase in demand for air ambulances has given rise to the Air Corps maintaining dedicated crews on stand-by 24/7 for fixed wing and rotary wing with the ability to cover: Transport of Neonates, Inter-hospital transfer of patients with spinal or other serious injury, Transport of patients requiring specialised emergency treatment in the UK, Transport of Organ retrieval teams in Ireland, Transport of patients from the islands where the Coastguard is not available and Transport of paediatric patients requiring immediate medical intervention.
Air Corps helicopter crews also utilise specialist Night Vision Goggles in their night time air ambulances and are the only pilots in the State with the capability to fly using them which gives significant added capability. The crew of the Agusta Westland AW139s used these goggles to complete 23 night time transfers of patients in 2013, which included four night air ambulances completed during the Halloween Bank Holiday.
In 2013 the Air Corps continued to support the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) in the pilot project to provide dedicated aeromedical support to the West of Ireland. The pilot Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) operates from Custume Barracks, Athlone and the Air Corps provide helicopter and personnel to fly and maintain the craft while the National Ambulance Service are responsible for patient care. This year the EAS answered 527 callouts from the National Aeromedical Co-ordination Centre up to 31 December including a tasking on Christmas Day.
Search and Rescue
Although search and rescue is not a primary role of the Defence Forces, the Air Corps conducted 24 SAR missions in 2013. 15 of these were SAR Top cover provided by the Air Corps’ fixed Wing assets for Irish Coast Guard operations. Such missions included the CASA Maritime Patrol Air Craft providing cover for the night time medical evacuation of crewman from a merchant vessel 250nm South West of Valentia on 20 October. The Air Corps’ rotary wing were also involved with several rescues this year. This included four mountain rescue SAR taskings and a rescue while assisting in the snow relief efforts in Northern Ireland in March.
The Air Corps deployed two helicopters to Northern Ireland on March 28 to the Co. Down area to carry animal feed for some areas cut off by heavy snow. During one of the flights, the AW139 was tasked to provide assistance to two climbers who had become stranded on a rock face and were unable to move to safety. The Air Corps helicopter picked up two PSNI mountain rescue team members from Belfast City Airport and brought them to the location of the stranded climbers. One PSNI team member was dropped close to the location and abseiled to secure the two casualties. Once secured, the climbers were winched to safety by the Air Corps helicopter.
Source: Irish Defence Forces