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Defence Forces

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 18 November 2021

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Questions (221, 223)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

221. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the reason the Air Corps AgustaWestland AW139 aircraft is sent to Belgium for inspections; if it relates to poor staffing levels in Casement Aerodrome; the cost of such inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56653/21]

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Patricia Ryan

Question:

223. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the amount paid to a company (details supplied) in each of the past two years to date in 2021; if these payments relate to aircraft maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56655/21]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 223 together.

I am advised by the military authorities that the Air Corps operate a maintenance plan which endeavors to ensure that the maximum number of operational flying hours is available from the current aircraft fleet when most needed. The maintenance of the Air Corps fleet falls into three broad categories: scheduled, unscheduled and routine/daily. The use of performance based maintenance contracts with original equipment manufacturers assists the Air Corps in keeping downtime of aircraft to the minimum and this is in line with international best practice.

It is currently the case that various aspects of aircraft maintenance are out-sourced by the Air Corps because the cost of in-house provision of such niche expertise and the specialist equipment required to certify airframes would be prohibitively expensive and not cost effective in the context of the number of airframes operated by the Air Corps.In relation to the AW139 helicopter fleet of 6 aircraft I am advised that the aircraft are routinely dispatched to the original equipment manufacturer Leonardo Aircraft, in Belgium, under a logistics supply agreement to support the AW139 fleet in order to complete certain larger inspections and maintenance inputs. Approximately 60% of the fleet undergo these larger inspections on an annual basis and this involves carrying out 48 month calendar inspections and 300 and/or 600 flight hour interval checks on each aircraft.

I am further advised that Leonardo Aircraft are in a position to provide the fastest turnaround times for these inspections and have all the required expertise at hand to ensure airworthiness certification of the aircraft. The cost of the maintenance varies between €100k and €200k per aircraft maintenance visit and the amount varies depending on the scope of works uncovered during the inspections. The payments made to Leonardo Belgium for maintenance and larger inspections on the fleet of 6 helicopter AW139 airframes during the period 1 Jan 2020 to date amounts to €1,555,376 inclusive of VAT.

All other maintenance works up to 1 year or 300 hour inspections on the aircraft are carried out by Air Corps aircraft technicians.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary modern and effective range of equipment available to them to ensure that they can fulfil the roles assigned to them by Government.

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