Winds damaged US helicopter during Obama visit


HELICOPTERS supporting US president Barack Obamas visit to Ireland were grounded at Dublin airport after at least one of them was damaged due to high winds shortly before his arrival.

An incident occurred last Monday, when wind speeds hit up to 70km/h, with gusts as high as 106km/h.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport confirmed an incident occurred with one of the large military support helicopters – understood to be a Chinook – involved in the US visit on Monday.

But she said the helicopter involved was not one of the two presidential helicopters used during the visit.

“The nature of the incident was that a rotor blade on one of the helicopters was damaged by environmental factors [high winds] during the inclement weather conditions on Monday.

“The blade did not come off, the aircraft did not hit the runway (it was on the ground already) and no damage was caused to the runway,” she said.

There were no injuries to persons on board the aircraft at the time and there are no technical issues for the Air Accident Investigation Unit here to examine.

“It is now a matter for the US military authorities as to when the aircraft will leave Dublin airport,” the spokeswoman said.

Wind gusts peaked at the airport at 57 knots (106km/h) on Monday afternoon, according to Hugh Daly of Met Éireann.

It’s fortunate the president did not plan to fly to Belmullet, Co Mayo, where a new record for May of 78 knots (144.5 km/h) was reached the same day.

Mr Obama is likely to be accustomed to such weather conditions, hailing as he does from the USs very own “Windy City” of Chicago. But his logistics team may not have bet on such inclemency in Ireland.

Four helicopters, believed to be those used for the Obama visit, were filmed by aircraft spotters several days before his arrival as they landed in close formation at Dublin airport.

They also carried out at least one practice run to Moneygall, Co Offaly, where Mr Obama made a pitstop to visit his ancestral home.

Mr Obama was flown to Áras an Uachtaráin and Moneygall in one of two other official helicopters.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Dublin said “a couple” of the machines sustained some wind damage.