Written Answers. - Air Accident Investigations.

Wednesday, 6 December 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 527 No. 4

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  53.  Mr. Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith   if his attention has been drawn to comments made by the widow of one of the Air Corps officers killed in the Tramore helicopter crash in a newspaper interview (details supplied) in which she was critical of the Government's response to the inquiry into the crash; his response to the comments made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28686/00]

  57.  Proinsias De Rossa  Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith   if the proposed Air Corps air safety office has now been appointed; the personnel and resources that will be available to the office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28683/00]

  63.  Mr. Broughan  Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith   the progress made to date in the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the air accident investigations unit into the crash of an Air Corps helicopter in Tramore in July 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28681/00]

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  67.  Mr. Finucane  Information on Michael Finucane  Zoom on Michael Finucane   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith   if Waterford Airport is providing a 24 hour search and rescue service; and if the safety recommendations of the final report of the air accident investigation unit have been implemented. [28631/00]

  74.  Mr. Broughan  Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan   asked the Minister for Defence  Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith   when the proposed air operations safety audit within the Air Corps will commence; when it is likely to be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28682/00]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 57, 63, 67 and 74 together.

I would like, once again, to take this opportunity to offer my sincere sympathies to the families of those involved in the tragic accident at Tramore on 2 July 1999. As Deputy Gilmore will be aware, in addition to the Air Accident Investigation Unit Report following the accident a Military Court of Inquiry was convened to inquire into the cause and circumstances of the accident. Its main thrust will be an examination of both the final report of the Air Accident Investigation Unit and the coroner's report. The Military Court of Inquiry, which was awaiting the publication of the final report, assembled at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel on 16 October 2000 and its work is now proceeding following the receipt of the coroner's court findings. I can assure the House that all findings and recommendations of the Court of Inquiry will be fully considered and appropriate action taken as necessary. As this inquiry is still ongoing, it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment in the matter.

As I have previously stated in the House, all of the safety recommendations set out in the report which call for action by the Department and the Defence Forces are being considered as a matter of priority with a view to their immediate implementation. In this regard I have put in place arrangements to monitor progress in regard to the implementation of the recommendations.

The second meeting of the working group charged with overseeing the process was held recently in the Department of Defence, involving representatives from my Department, including the Defence Forces, as well as from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. Progress reports from the various bodies involved were presented and reviewed and a composite progress report is currently being prepared in the Department, which will be presented to me over the coming days. This group will continue to meet on a regular basis in order to ensure the speedy implementation of the safety recommendations set out in the report.

I am aware that progress is being reported by all bodies involved. In regard to the establishment of an Air Safety Office within the Air Corps and the commissioning of an independent Air Operations Safety Audit of the Air Corps the position is that an Air Corps Officer of Lieutenant-[1024] Colonel rank has been appointed by the GOC Air Corps to carry out the duties of Air Safety Officer. The question of the further assignment of personnel in connection with the work of the Air Safety Office is a matter to which the GOC Air Corps is giving urgent attention.

I am also pleased to report that the procedure for the selection of an appropriate agency to undertake an Air Operations Safety Audit of the Air Corps as recommended in the report of the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Department of Public Enterprise into the accident at Tramore on 2 July 2000 has commenced. The report envisaged that the results of this audit will form the foundation for the new Air Corps Air Safety Office. As I have previously outlined in the House, I have directed that this audit be carried out at the earliest time possible and all support necessary will be provided by my Department and the Defence Forces to the chosen agency to carry out its work.

In response to Deputy Finucane's question regarding the provision of a 24 hour search and rescue service at Waterford Airport, the position is that search and rescue cover is currently provided by the Air Corps using an Alouette 111 helicopter in this regard. The Alouette 111 is a single-engined helicopter, restricted to off-shore visual contact flight conditions and daylight only and to operations to a maximum of three nautical miles off-shore. As the House is aware, the Alouette is in replacement of the Dauphin which was involved in the accident at Tramore on 2 July 1999.

Question No. 54 taken with Question No. 35.


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