The helipad proposed for Cork University Hospital (CUH) has been designed specifically to cater for the largest search and rescue helicopter-type operating in Ireland today.
Confirmation that the new facility will be able to accommodate the S-92 four-blade two-engine aircraft operated by CHC on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard, is contained in planning documents published online this week.
It was unclear last week when details of the long-awaited planning application emerged, whether or not the proposed heliport would be ground-based or elevated.
While skilled helicopter pilots can land on elevated platforms, like those on ships or oil rigs, strict flight performance parameters and aviation regulations prevent S-92s from landing on certain elevated platforms.
However, the documents show that CUH’s helipad will be ground-based and has been designed specifically to handle the S-92, as well the Irish Corps’ AW139 and the EC135 P2+ aircraft which are also involved in aeromedical services in Ireland.
Following a lengthy site selection assessment process, the HSE has sought planning permission from Cork City Council to build the helipad on a site in the northeast of the hospital campus currently used as a staff car park.
CUH's original helipad was decommissioned almost 15-years ago to facilitate the extension of its emergency department.
Initially, helicopters transferring patients to CUH landed at Cork Airport, from where patients were transferred by ambulance to CUH. In recent years, helicopters have landed at a designated landing site at nearby Bishopstown GAA Club.
The documents also show how important the S-92s are - having conducted 54 of the 89 helicopter transfers to CUH in 2015, 12 of the 28 transfers in 2016; 16 of the 35 transfers in 2017, and to the end of October this year, eight of the 29 transfers.
A design report, prepared by Pascall + Watson, with input from UK-based aviation consultants, Helios Aviation, shows how the existing staff car park will be reconfigured to facilitate the helipad, with two new parking areas to be built either side of the helipad.
Their levels will be dropped for flight safety reasons.
The experts say the helipad is an essential piece of infrastructure at CUH with their report saying: "Having the capability of direct transfers to the hospital grounds has the potential to save lives.
They have proposed installing a two-metre high acoustic screening barrier on the northern edge of the helipad - close to the nearest homes - to mitigate against the noise from helicopters.
The overall project will also require the demolition of the hospital’s boiler house chimney to clear a flight-path, and the construction of a new two-storey staff car park on the west side of the hospital campus to replace the 164-parking space which will be lost due to the helipad.
A planning decision is due early in the new year.
EAS (Emergency Aeromedical Service) IRCH (Irish Coast Guard) IHT (inter-hospital transfer)