Until now Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights had each contracted its own helicopter service provider

The General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the UK and Ireland have

announced a £13million seven-year contract to PDG Helicopters for the

provision of helicopter services to cover all three Authorities.


provision of one helicopter supplier across the GLAs is expected to deliver a saving of around £7.9million to the General Lighthouse Fund,

which pays for the safety critical work of the GLAs to provide Maritime Aids to Navigation

service around the coast of UK and Ireland.

Until now each authority has contracted its own helicopter service provider and

co-ordinated its own activities. The decision to award a single tri-GLA

contract for helicopter services is a first for the participating authorities, who established a cross-GLA project team to manage the

procurement process.

Helicopters have been contracted by the

GLAs since the 1970’s for the transportation of personnel to remote and

difficult-to-access sites and for specialised operations to transport

materials to and from their support vessels and lighthouses.


Helicopters is one of the UK and Ireland’s leading helicopter providers.

PDG operates an extensive fleet of modern aircraft and will deploy two

Eurocopter EC 135 aircraft to fulfill the contract requirements.

Headquartered in Scotland PDG has operating bases across the United

Kingdom and Ireland from which it flies over 11,000 hours a year

supporting a wide range of onshore and offshore markets.

New contract

The new seven-year contract, with an extension option for up to a further three years,

will begin in December 2015 allowing existing contracts to complete

and for a period of training and familiarisation.

The projected

flying hours across the GLAs will be around 1,000 per annum – the number

of flying hours has reduced over recent years – in part achieved

through the improved engineering of remote lights giving greater

reliability and reduced maintenance burden created by the ongoing work

to introduce solar power and LED lights but also through more effective

and collaborative planning across the GLAs.

Deployment of the

helicopter will be co-ordinated by the three lighthouse authorities,

working in collaboration.

The GLAs will consult on PDG Helicopters work

plans and align the helicopter services in the most efficient and

effective manner to meet their operational requirements.

However, by the nature of the safety critical work of the GLAs, an agreed

contingency procedure will be put in place to allow the authorities to

deal with any immediate or short-notice high priority tasking.

‘An essential service’


Ian McNaught, Deputy Master of Trinity House said: ‘This single contract

demonstrates the GLAs willingness to adapt and change working practices

collaboratively in order to develop best practice and reduce operating


Mike Bullock, Chief

Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board said: ‘Helicopters provide an

essential capability for the GLAs as they allow both personnel and

material to be delivered to difficult to access sites in remote and

often hostile environments.’

Yvonne Shields, Chief

Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights said: ‘We are pleased to

be working with PDG Helicopters.

‘Over recent years the EC 135 has

already proved its capabilities by carrying out operations for two of

the GLAs under separate contracts and PDG Helicopters, through its

subsidiary Irish Helicopters, has successfully worked with the

Commissioners of Irish Lights since the 1970’s so we are aware of the

service they provide and we look forward to continue working with them

under the new contract.’

At the contract signing Jerry Francis,

Chief Executive of PDG Helicopters said: ‘We are delighted to be awarded

the GLA Helicopter Service Contract and are proud to be supporting them

in the delivery of their statutory duty for the safety of the mariner.

He added: ‘The award of this

contract is a natural progression from working exclusively with the

Commissioners of Irish Lights and we look forward to extending this

vital service across the entire United Kingdom and Ireland.’


PDG Helicopters EC 135 Helicopter carrying out mobilisation of materials at Ardnakinna Lighthouse (County Cork) in preparation for planned lighthouse maintenance. Ardnakinna Lighthouse is owned and operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights


to some remote lights, such as Skerryvore lighthouse marking a very extensive

and treacherous reef of rocks some 11 miles south west of Tiree, is only

feasible by helicopter at certain weather or tidal windows. The helipad was

added in the 1970’s. Image credit: Ian Cowe