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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Irish Air Corps Retires Alouette 3s

MILITARY/SAR

The Irish Air Corps is retiring its Alouette 3s, which have been central to thousands of rescue and Army missions since it first went into active service.

The Irish defense forces bought the aircraft in 1963 from France’s Sud Aviation, a predecessor of Eurocopter. The Alouettes were used mainly as an air and sea rescue helicopter, but were also used by the Army for patrols of the border with Northern Ireland. Its retirement at a special ceremony Sept. 21 signaled "the closure of a glorious chapter in the Air Corps history," according to the Defence Forces press office.

The helicopter, considered to be one of the best of its kind ever made, has helped its crews save the lives of 542 people during operations over the past 44 years. It has been involved in more than 1,700 search and rescue operations and 2,882 air ambulance missions during its military lifetime. Fourteen members of the Air Corps have been decorated for outstanding bravery for their performance during some of those rescues with the Alouette.

Former technicians and aircrew members as well as rescue workers got a final glimpse of the aircraft’s maneuvers at the farewell ceremony at Casement Aerodrome in County Dublin.

Brig. Gen. Brian McMahon (retired), the pilot who flew the first Alouette to the Baldonnel in 1963, was among those at event. The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Pat Nash, and the general officer commanding the Air Corps, Brig. Gen. Ralph James, also attended.

The Air Corps now operates a new fleet of Eurocopter EC135s and Agusta/Westland AW139s.

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