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Written Answers. - Garda Transport.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 47. Mr. Gilmore Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  the current position regarding the provision of a second Garda helicopter; the reason for the long delay in view of the fact that it was supposed to have been ready by the beginning of 2001; when it is expected that the aircraft will be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18493/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Government approved the purchase of a second Garda helicopter in November 1998. A tender competition was held and an EC135 was ordered. The EC135 represented a new generation of helicopter technology. It is built to order and delivery time depends on the production line and demand from other customers.

Following construction, the craft was delivered to the UK for the fitting out of specialised police equipment. The fitting out of most of the specialised equipment on the EC135 was subsequently completed and the necessary trials carried out allowing acceptance by the Garda authorities of the craft late last year. In November 2001, the Government approved my predecessor's proposal to contract out the piloting and maintenance of the EC135 for a trial period. The Air Corps had indicated that they would have to contract out the maintenance of this aircraft and it was decided to avail of the opportunity to explore other piloting [1160] and maintenance arrangements with a view to assessing alternatives in terms of such factors as efficiency and cost-effectiveness. An interdepartmental committee was established to oversee and facilitate this task.

This committee, having considered the various issues, submitted an interim report to my predecessor in which they recommended, for legal reasons, that the EC135 be introduced into service on an interim basis on the State military register while the longer term options were explored. The matter was submitted to Government which approved in April 2002 the placement on an interim basis of the EC135 on the State military register with the Air Corps responsible for the piloting of the craft. The maintenance of the EC135 was again to be outsourced.

I understand that the placement process which involves the manufacturer providing an audited document trail to the Air Corps is currently at an advanced stage and upon receipt of responses to a small number of outstanding issues, will be finalised shortly. At this stage, the EC135 will be delivered to the State. It is intended that the EC135 will become operational shortly afterwards when all pilot and Garda observer training programmes have been completed.

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