Children’s hospital helipad will be ‘unusable’ by some craft

Coastguard helicopters not licensed to land at elevated helipad, Bord Pleanala told

December 1st, 2015: An animation shows the plans currently in place for the proposed children's hosiptal to be built on the site of the current St James’s Hospital.


Search and rescue helicopters operated by the Irish Coastguard will not be able to use the helipad planned for the new national children’s hospital, it has emerged.

This is because the Sikorsky S92 helicopters used by the Coastguard as an air ambulance service are not licensed to land at elevated helipads, such as the one planned for the site at St James’s hospital.

Other air ambulances operated by the Air Corps to transport very sick children will be able to use the helipad, which will be located above a fourth floor roof garden at the south edge of the new development.

The helipad is the subject of a wide range of concerns and objections to An Bord Pleanala, relating to safety, noise, fire risk, location, light pollution and alleged risks to the operation of medical equipment.

However, it will not significantly impact on local residents, St James’s hospital or the new children’s hospital, according to Phelim Devine, design director for the project.

An elevated helipad, as opposed to one located at ground level, is the most appropriate design solution, he told the oral hearing convened by the board into the project.

The elevated location will allow for easier flight paths and fewer obstacles, less impact on local residents and closer landing to the emergency department, he said.

Currently, an average of four to six children, most of them victims of road crashes or head injuries, are transported each month by the Air Corps for the National Aeromedical Service. The new children’s hospital is expected to see up to 36 such flight a year. The helipad will also be used to service the adult hospital at St James’s, which currently lands helicopters at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The Agusta Westland helicopters used by the Air Corps will be able to use the elevated helipad but the Coastguard, which provide reserve air ambulance capacity, will not be able to land its Sikorskys at St James’s. Mr Devine said they will land in Kilmainham or at a ground helipad at Tallaght Hospital.

MRI machines in the new hospital could affect the compass of helicopters landing at the helipad, he conceded, but by the time this occurred pilots would be flying visually and not relying on their compass. The nearest MRI is over 30 metres away from a flight path, while best practice suggests a minimum distance of 15 metres.