Executive Helicopters have released a statement to address the ongoing issue regarding air transport to and from the Aran Islands. The company says helicopters are already the mainstay and air transport of choice to many offshore islands in open ocean conditions and give the example of the Tory Island service off Donegal coast, which has been operating since 1985 and is part-funded by the Department of the Gaeltacht.
In relation to the comments that aeroplanes are able to operate in worse weather conditions than helicopters for the Aran islands PSO air service, the company says “airplanes are not permitted by law to operate in worse weather than helicopters for this route. Aeroplanes require a minimum visibility of almost twice (1,500m ) that required by a helicopter (800m ) to operate to the relevant airports.’’
Helicopters are used off the west coast by the Irish Coast Guard, Search and Rescue services and the IAC Medical Service. The company notes that ‘’these services are readily acceptable and welcome by all island and coastal communities along the Atlantic seaboard.’’
Executive Helicopters have been operating helicopters in the west of Ireland for almost 20 years. The statement from the company claims helicopters are better placed to deal with situations such as rapidly deteriorating weather ‘’as it has the option to either slow down or land whereas the fixed wing aeroplane has to seek a suitable diversion airfield. Safety statistics show that helicopters are every bit as safe as airplanes”.
It is claimed that the helicopters for the routes will have a greater passenger capacity than the existing Aer Arann Islander aircraft, will have similar luggage/cargo capacity, and can fly in a greater range and variety of weather conditions. “The new helicopter service will provide a reliable as well as a faster, more efficient service to Galway city’’.
The statement concludes by noting that the transport time from the Aran Islands to Galway CCty via Galway Airport is approximately 30 minutes less by helicopter than the alternative by aeroplane to na Mine Airport and road transfer to the city. “The Request to Tender document specifically limited the service to operate from either Na Mine or Galway airports. Executive Helicopters submitted its tender to operate the service from Galway Airport - it being one of the two airports it was obliged to tender from.”