AN ENGLISH firm has won a €750,000 contract to keep the Garda helicopter fleet flying.
Eurocopter UK Ltd, of Oxford Airport, Kidlington, will support the airframes, engines and auto pilot parts for the two helicopters in the "service-by-the- hour" contract.
Such contracts typically provide the helicopter operator with a fixed-engine maintenance cost over an extended period of time.
Operators are given an accurate cost projection and avoid the costs associated with breakdowns.
The contract, for €747,962, will be carried out on the two Garda Eurocopter EC135 helicopters at the Air Corps base at Baldonnel.
The Air Corps also operates two EC 135 choppers, with maintenance carried out at the Air Corps headquarters at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
News of the awarding of the contract has just been published on the Government e-tenders website.
Formed in 1997, the Garda Air Support Unit also includes a fixed-wing, twin-engined Britten-Norman Defender 4000 observation plane in its fleet.
The GASU has been credited for more than 1,300 arrests and locating 15 people during search missions.
The Garda air fleet has been deployed on a variety of missions since it was formed, including combating crime, terrorism and dealing with public disorder. It is also used for collecting video footage from the air when dealing with large crowd events.
Operational control of the aircraft remains with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, while the Air Corps provides pilots to fly the GASU helicopters and Defender.
The two helicopters operate seven days a week in the Garda air support role.