THE COAST Guard helicopter can once again land at Letterkenny University Hospital following the completion of works to bring it up to European standards. For over a year now the Coast Guard helicopter has been landing at Errigal College after it emerged the hospital’s helipad did not meet the proper standards.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Manager at the Malin Head Coast Guard Unit, Derek Flanagan said the hospital helipad is an asset for the people of Donegal and the islands.
“The Coast Guard helicopter is a very specific aircraft. It is very big and it needs a particular landing site that has to be very safe. A survey was carried out on the older pad and it was decided that it was not up to European standards. The HSE and the hospital came together because it is an important asset to Donegal and the wider area and it was well worth the investment.”
While the vital work was being carried out the Coast Guard was landing their Performance Class One aircraft at Errigal College which Mr Flanagan said was not ideal. Landings were difficult at times. In certain weather conditions the helicopter also had to land at the airfield at the Big Isle.
“It makes a massive difference to the people of Donegal and the islands that we can fly straight into Letterkenny if there are any maritime incidents or incidents on the islands. We can land there day or night. It is a very important asset,” he added.
The work was completed recently and since then trial flights have been going in and out of Letterkenny for the pilots to familiarise themselves with the different approaches to the pad. The Coast Guard unit is extremely busy and before speaking to us on Tuesday Mr Flanagan was tasked with a medical evacuation off Arranmore Island.
“We would have on average 10 to 15 call outs per month. The summer would have a higher number of incidents with people going to the coast. Usually call outs increase relative to the weather so if we have good weather we get a higher number of call outs.”
However during lockdown there was a notable decline in the Coast Guard’s activities as travel restrictions were in place.
Mr Flanagan added: “Definitely during March, April, May it was very quiet and we got very few call outs. Towards the end of May we got very busy and we have been very busy since then. People are going back to the water and taking up their hobbies again. If anyone sees anyone in difficulty at sea call 999 and ask for the Coast Guard. If you are going to sea always wear a lifejacket.”