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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Irish Air Corps Inside the Irish Air Corps helicopter flying in formation behind the US Seahawk.
Mercy Mission

US Navy Helicopter spotted over Cliffs of Moher at weekend was on mercy mission, officials say

The US helicopter was taking a bereaved crew member to catch a flight back to the US following the death of a family member.

A US NAVY helicopter was spotted over the Cliffs of Moher this weekend as it made an urgent mercy mission into Irish airspace.

The US embassy and Air Corps have confirmed that an aircraft from onboard a US Navy ship flew from international waters to bring US Navy personnel to an airport.

The helicopter, a US Navy Seahawk, call sign Navy 715, flew from the ship some 24 miles off the Irish coast, in international waters, and made its way across the Clare coast at the Cliffs of Moher on Friday.

In audio obtained by The Journal Navy 715 can be heard seeking clearance to enter Irish Airspace from an air traffic controller in Shannon.

It caused a flurry of activity and speculation on social media as onlookers were surprised to see a US Navy helicopter in the skies over Clare. 

It is understood that the helicopter’s mission was to ferry a crew member to a flight back to the US who had just received news of the death of a family member.   

The flight was organised in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Irish Air Corps were also tipped off about the flight and used it as a training exercise.

An Air Corps spokesperson said that the flight came from a US destroyer steaming off the Irish coast.

“The US Navy Seahawk flight on Thursday 13 May & a flight on Friday 14th was in order to transport four personnel. The personnel were travelling from the U.S. destroyer, USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) that was transiting the North Atlantic to participate in a three-week NATO exercise north of Scotland. 

“This ship arrived in the vicinity of Ireland’s west coast on 13 May and was past Ireland by the evening of 14 May.  The ship disembarked four members to Ireland so they could fly home to the U.S. on commercial flights. 

“One of the passengers was going home on emergency leave after the loss of a family member and the others were contractors who were performing repairs on the ship as it transited the Atlantic,” he said.

black-sea-truxtun-passex SIPA USA / PA Images A stock image of a US Navy Sea Hawk above a destroyer. SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

The Spokesperson said that the Air Corps had used the flight as an opportunity to practice formation flying with their US counterparts.

“Our AW139 helicopter conducted a training flight in formation with the US Navy Seahawk as it transited out to the West coast and return to its ship.

“Formation flying is a fundamental military aviators skill used extensively in tactical flying. Interoperability with other militaries is a crucial aspect of maintaining the Irish Air Corps’ to the highest international flying standards,” he added.

A US Embassy spokesperson confirmed the US flight but would only say that the flight was made in an emergency situation.

“While we are not able to provide specific information for a variety of reasons, including privacy concerns, we can confirm that U.S. and Irish authorities working together were able to successfully resolve an emergency situation involving personnel on a U.S. Naval vessel in international waters west of Ireland,” he said.

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