The Garda S?och?na currently operate two helicopters as part of the Garda Air Support Unit (GASU). These are an AS355N Squirrel Helicopter (operational since 1997) and an EC 135 Helicopter (operational since Feb. 2003). The decision to purchase the original EC 135 helicopter was made following a tender competition which allowed the Garda? choose from amongst competing suppliers for the product which best met their technical requirements rather than standardisation with either their existing helicopter or indeed the Air Corps fleet.
In February 2005 the Garda S?och?na sought approval to replace the Squirrel Helicopter with a second EC135, based on a number of factors, in particular, commonality of aircraft type, general arrangements in helicopter management, personnel training, maintenance, auto-pilot facility, optimum resale period, etc.
A Prior Indicative Notice (PIN) alerting the market that the Garda S?och?na intended to acquire a new EC 135 T2 Helicopter was published in the Official Journal of the EU on the 21st April, 2005 and an RFT for the "supply and delivery of a new Eurocopter EC 135 T2 Helicopter with McAlpine (MHL) Police Role Equipment Fit to An Garda S?och?na" was placed on the e-tenders website on Tuesday 14th June with a closing date for receipt of tenders of 9th August.
Following the completion of the tendering process the contract was awarded to McAlpines Helicopters Ltd., As part of the payment schedule for the purchase of the helicopter a down payment was made to McAlpine Helicopters Ltd before the end of 2005. A supplementary estimate was introduced by the Minister for 2005 specifically for this purpose. In the 2006 estimates ?5.9m was reserved for the purchase of the EC135 and at that stage it was anticipated that the it would be delivered to the Garda Air Support Unit by the end of 2006. Construction of the aircraft took place at the Eurocopter manufacturing factory in Donnauworth in Germany and the new helicopter which is c/n 478 left the Eurocopter facility on the 4th May bound for the McAlpine Helicopter Ltd. facility in Oxford where the fitting out of the Police Role Equipment is taking place.
She is currently registered G-CECT and due to become ?272? in Air corps service. The two existing Air Corps EC-135s are 270? (c/n 0431). and ?271? (c/n 0425). Originally the the first two AW139s were expected to become '272' and '273' but '272' was reserved for the GASU EC-135 and '273' has been reserved for a possible future EC-135 either for the Air Corps or GAZU. 274? (c/n 31048), and ?275? (c/n 31059) are the recently delivered AW139s with '276' and 277 being the next two due around April.
The GAZU EC-135 due at the end of 2006 is not now expected until May and the existing Squirrel will be sold off when she becomes operational. In fitting out the EC-135 the Garda S?och?na has decided to take the opportunity to avail of the latest technology versions of equipment which are only becoming available from suppliers for Police Helicopters. These factors have resulted in a delay in delivery. However, a subsequent retrofit would cause considerable operational down time and expense should the opportunities not have been availed of at this time.
Information from Flying in Ireland Editorial Team
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