PRESS RELEASE 23 June 2021

The Irish Community Air Ambulance has taken delivery of a Leonardo 109S Grand helicopter. It is the fastest civilian helicopter in the world and is ideally suited to the provision of a rural Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS).

The charity heli-med service has responded to almost 1,000 incidents from its base in Rathcoole, County Cork since it was established in July 2019. Cardiac arrests account for the most incidents so far this year, followed by road traffic collisions and farming accidents.

The new aircraft, which will go into full service from tomorrow (Thursday), offers more speed, greater patient comfort and it has the capacity to take on more fuel increasing endurance and range.

The helicopter can travel up to 300 kilometres per hour. It is capable of flying the length of the country from Mizen to Malin Head in a little over 90 minutes. The same journey would take 8 hours by road.

Irish Community Air Ambulance Chief Executive Mícheál Sheridan says: “We are often called to the most serious of incidents, in these situations where you’re dealing with a critical patient, the small gains can have the greatest benefit to the patient’s comfort and outcomes. This new helicopter offers more speed but it also has additional room at the rear. That means that we can transport adult patients more comfortably and we also have space for an additional medic on board, if necessary.”

The Community Air Ambulance works in tandem with the National Ambulance Service and brings patients to the hospital that best suits their life-saving needs. The Mater Hospital in Dublin and Cork University Hospital (CUH) are the two major centres for the provision of trauma care in Ireland. Mícheál Sheridan added: “In recent weeks we’ve airlifted seriously ill patients to both CUH and the Mater during one shift. That highlights the speed and versatility of our service. We’re also called upon to transport paediatric emergency cases to Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Our new helicopter has more space for the parents of children who may need to be transferred over long distances to Dublin and will be able to get them there that bit faster. However, the new aircraft also means additional costs. The Air Ambulance is expected to cost €1.55m to run this year and relies entirely on fundraising. Each mission costs an average of €3,500, we need donations and support to help us go further faster.”

20-year-old Clodagh Lynch from Bantry in Co. Cork travelled in the previous helicopter and was among the first people to see the new arrival. The UCC student was enjoying the sun outside her home on the 30th of May 2020 when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Clodagh’s mother is a nurse and immediately began CPR. Her brother alerted the emergency services and the Irish Community Air Ambulance arrived in 13 minutes. Clodagh says: “Once I was stabilised, I was airlifted to Cork University Hospital. I spent six weeks recovering before I was allowed home. I believe that only for the quick actions of the Air Ambulance crew supported by other emergency responders I wouldn’t be here today. The Irish Community Air Ambulance is an invaluable service. It really is wonderful to be here today to finally meet the crew who treated me that day and to see the new helicopter which I know will continue to make a difference to the lives of people who find themselves in an emergency situation like I did.”