The Irish Ministry for Transport (MoT) has issued its Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) for companies interested in bidding for the national SAR service. The current contract has been flown by CHC since 2012, and covers four bases and five Sikorsky S92 helicopters – one for each base, and a maintenance cover aircraft. The period of the contract has been ten years, together with three single year options. The first of these three options has been exercised, and given the timelines being quoted, it is likely both of the other options will also be agreed.
The PQQ indicates that the new tender is for three helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft, but with certain caveats. Following a call from various sources across Ireland for the Irish Air Corps (IAC) to run the entire SAR provision (rather than it being contracted out), the MoT has stated that IAC will take over the fixed wing element after three years if they are “ready, willing and able”. If not, the fixed-wing provision will continue with an option of three years followed by two options of two years.
The number and location of bases has not been set, and will be a matter for bidders to propose a suitable operational configuration to meet the response time requirements.
The PQQ includes criteria which every bidder must meet, including a minimum turnover of €90 million, which in practical terms limits the potential bidders to Bristow, CHC and NHV. While other global operators also meet this requirement, there are none which have sufficient SAR experience and European footprint to be expected to bid.
On the currently published timeline, the Irish MoT will make their final decision on which operator will run the next contract in March 2023. Read more at