3-Dec-2015 Source: HeliHub.com
PDG Helicopters – based in Scotland – has this week started a new seven year contract to support of lighthouses around the coasts of UK and Ireland, the first time this has been flown as a single contract. Up to now there have been three separate contracts for the Corporation of Trinity House (covering England & Wales), Northern Lighthouse Board (Scotland) and the Commissioner of Irish Lights (Ireland and Northern Ireland).
The new contract will run for seven years from 1st December 2015 to 30th Novmeber 2022, with a further three single year extensions which could take it to November 2025. The three authorities (known collectively as the “General Lighthouse Authorities of Great Britain and Ireland”), and the “GLA” name is reflected in the registration of the newly acquired EC135T2e G-GLAA which was displayed at Helitech in London by the manufacturer. The high-conspicuity scheme of orange and dark blue matched the scheme of the EC135 that PDG subsidiary Irish Helicopters have flown for the Commissioner of Irish Lights contract in recent years.
Up to 30th November these were run by:-
– England and Wales – MD902 – Specialist Aviation Services
– Scotland – EC135 – Bond Air Services (part of Avincis Group)
– Ireland and Northern Ireland – EC135 – Irish Helicopters (which is owned by PDG Helicopters)
The projected flying hours across the GLAs will be around 1,000 per annum between the two aircraft – the number of flying hours has reduced over recent years – in part achieved through the improved engineering of remote lights giving greater reliability and reduced maintenance burden created by the ongoing work to introduce solar power and LED lights but also through more effective and collaborative planning across the GLAs.
Deployment of the helicopter will be co-ordinated by the three lighthouse authorities, working in collaboration. The GLAs will consult on PDG Helicopters work plans and align the helicopter services in the most efficient and effective manner to meet their operational requirements. However, by the very nature of the safety critical work of the GLAs, an agreed contingency procedure will be put in place to allow the Authorities to deal with any immediate or short-notice high priority tasking.
On announcing the contract, Captain Ian McNaught, Deputy Master of Trinity House said “This single contract demonstrates the GLAs willingness to adapt and change working practices collaboratively in order to develop best practice and reduce operating costs. It makes a positive contribution to the achievement of real cost reduction whilst continuing to deliver the essential network of aids to navigation the GLAs provide to the maritime community in the UK and Ireland. A potential saving of £7.9M is something the GLAs are extremely pleased to report to its stakeholders.”
At the same time, Mike Bullock, Chief Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board said “Helicopters provide an essential capability for the GLAs as they allow both personnel and material to be delivered to difficult to access sites in remote and often hostile environments. With safety considerations at the forefront of the procurement process, we have looked very closely at the type and capability of helicopter to ensure we provide a reliable and safe means of access to and from our sites.”
Meanwhile Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights added “We are pleased to be working with PDG Helicopters. Over recent years the EC 135 has already proved its capabilities by carrying out operations for two of the GLAs under separate contracts and PDG Helicopters, through its subsidiary Irish Helicopters, has successfully worked with the Commissioners of Irish Lights since the 1970’s so we are aware of the service they provide and we look forward to continue working with them under the new contract.”