The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD has today published an independent report entitled a “Review of Oversight of Search and Rescue (SAR) Aviation Operations in Ireland”. The Minister has considered the report and accepts in full the 12 recommendations contained in it.
The review was conducted as a direct response to the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) interim statement of March last which called on the Minister, “as the issuing authority for the Irish National Maritime Search and Rescue Framework, [to] carry out a thorough review of SAR aviation operations in Ireland to ensure that there are appropriate processes, resources and personnel in place to provide effective, continuous, comprehensive and independent oversight of all aspects of these operations”.
The report was prepared on behalf of the Department by a team of external, international experts (details below). The review process and the report itself were also the subject of peer review by various SAR entities in other jurisdictions. It was completed in early August and submitted to the AAIU along with a series of follow-up actions to ensure full implementation of the report’s recommendations. The AAIU has now had an opportunity to consider the report in the context of its on-going, wide-ranging investigation into the R116 accident and is happy that its publication does not jeopardise any other element of its on-going investigation.
The Minister states: “I fully accept the findings and recommendations of this comprehensive review of search and rescue aviation oversight by a team of international experts, which I appointed at end May. The Review has also benefitted from input from search and rescue authorities in Iceland, Finland, Spain, Sweden and Australia, and I wish to thank them for their assistance. I have instructed that all necessary steps be taken without delay to ensure speedy implementation of all of the recommendations. As the Report explains, search and rescue oversight and regulation is a complex matter, and international regulation is still endeavouring to keep pace with practice on the ground. However, we now have an opportunity in Ireland - and a blueprint – to make meaningful improvement to our current oversight structures, and in doing so set a benchmark for other jurisdictions.”
The Minister will continue to provide updates to the AAIU on the progress in implementing these actions. As the report states, the Review did not examine the specific circumstances in relation to the R116 accident and as such, there is no intention to establish any causal link between their findings and the accident. In that context, it is worth emphasising that the AAIU’s investigation into the causes of the accident continues. It is charged under domestic law and international obligations with examining all relevant issues it determines are pertinent to the incident it is investigating. The Minister re-iterated: “Whilst I understand the on-going public interest in this matter, it is vital that the AAIU is given the time and space to complete its work and report on its findings. As such, I am not in position to comment further on the issues surrounding it.”
Notes for Editors
A copy of the report can be found on our website, link Review of Oversight of Search and Rescue (SAR) Aviation Operations in Ireland
Composition of Review Team
The three person consultancy team is led by Prof. Jules Kneepkens, former EASA Rulemaking Director, Director General of Civil Aviation in Belgium and Civil Aviation Director in the Netherlands. Mr Kneepkens is highly experienced in the development and implementation of the European Aviation Regulations as well as Search and Rescue requirements and he regularly advises EU and non-EU-authorities on the EU/EASA regulatory structure and operational regulations. The team also includes Mr. Rowan Greenwood and Mr Milen Dentchev. Mr Greenwood is a former Search and Rescue commander with Bristow Helicopters Ltd operating on the UK HM Coastguard contract 1989-2005. Mr Greenwood subsequently joined the Civil Aviation Authority UK and spent seven years as a Flight Operations (Training) Inspector responsible for the legal and safety oversight of UK Helicopter AOCs, including charter, offshore, HEMS, Police and SAR operators. In 2014 Mr Greenwood left the CAA to join Bristow Group Inc. as the Director, Global SAR Operations and presently operates as an independent consultant. Mr. Dentchev has worked for the International Civil Aviation Organisation as Safety Oversight Auditor in the Safety Oversight Audit section of USOAP in Montreal. He has been team leader of numerous USOAP audits in Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. He was also a certified ANS and AIG auditor and conducted several audits in European States, including the Russian Federation, Turkey, Armenia and Ukraine. Mr Dentchev has also worked for EASA in the standardisation directorate. It is expect that the review should conclude within two months and a report with recommendations will be published.
The Terms of Reference for the review were as follows:
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, as the issuing authority for the Irish National Maritime Search and Rescue Framework, should carry out a thorough review of SAR aviation operations in Ireland to ensure that there are appropriate processes, resources and personnel in place to provide effective, continuous, comprehensive and independent oversight of all aspects of these operations.
In carrying out the review as described in the AAIU’s interim statement of 14 March 2018, the reviewer should focus in particular on:
• the specific reports, audits and frameworks highlighted in the AAIU’s interim statement in relation to oversight arrangements for Search and Rescue (SAR) aviation operations, including any follow-up actions arising from these;
• the practices and procedures in place for oversight of SAR aviation operations within the IAA, as the national aviation regulator and the Irish Coast Guard, as the tasking authority for SAR aviation operations, and any other entities deemed relevant, and benchmark these in terms of their effectiveness, continuity, comprehensiveness and independence against models of best practice internationally (ideally using analogous models of SAR provision);
• the legal basis underpinning the oversight roles related to SAR aviation operations;
• the resourcing of these roles and processes within each organisation.
Based on a thorough review of these and any other issues determined by the Reviewer as relevant to the AAIU recommendation, the review should:
• identify any gaps or lack of clarity in terms of roles, legal vires, processes, training, resources and/or personnel within these organisations to carry out their oversight of SAR aviation operations; and
• make recommendations on practical measures to address these to ensure oversight arrangements for SAR aviation operations in Ireland measure up to international best practice in terms of effectiveness, continuity, comprehensiveness and independence.