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