For discussion
on 21 June 1996


Government Flying Service
New Subhead "Installation of a loudhailer system in helicopters"

Members are invited to approve a commitment of $13 million for the installation of a loudhailer system in all helicopters of the Government Flying Service.


Currently there is no effective means by which Government Flying Service (GFS) helicopter crews can communicate to people on the ground or in water during operations.


2. The Secretary for Security proposes to install a loudhailer system in all nine GFS helicopters to enable the crew to communicate to people on the ground or in water during operations.


3. At present GFS helicopters do not have an effective public address system. Air crews are unable to communicate to people on the surface during operations. The lack of a suitable means to give instructions or directions to people on the ground affects operational effectiveness, particularly during search and rescue operations.

4. The loudhailer system now under request would enable the crew to broadcast a direct voice message or pre-recorded cassette tape information. This will improve communication and hence operational effectiveness during rescue operations, casualty evacuations, general public alerts such as hill fire warnings, shark sightings and traffic problems, and when assisting vessels in distress.

5. It is essential to install a loudhailer system in each of the six S76 and three Blackhawk helicopters in order to facilitate flexible deployment of the entire helicopter fleet. The Controller, GFS expects to complete installation work in the six S76s in seven months and the three Blackhawks in 11 months, if Members approve this proposal. To prepare for any unpredictable natural disasters, we hope to install the system as soon as possible.


6. The estimated total non-recurrent expenditure of the proposal is $13 million, made up as follows -

(a)Loudhailer system for six S76 helicopters

(i) Six installation kits2,930

(ii) Manufacturer's technical support
for the first S76
Sub-total 3,350
(b)Loudhailer system for three Blackhawk helicopters

(i) Three kits for structural changes 2,380

(ii) Three installation kits 3,735

(iii) Manufacturer's technical support
for the first Blackhawk
Sub-total 8,615
(c) Air freight charges 630
(d)Spare parts 75

7. The cost of this proposal reflects the need to satisfy stringent air-worthiness requirements. All modifications must integrate with the installed helicopter inter-communication systems. This necessitates the relocation of built-in sensitive items such as remote compass and flight computers. A comprehensive aircraft evaluation, design and structural assessment is also necessary to ensure that all aspects of the aircraft's capabilities remain intact. To minimise the cost and to faciliate technology transfer, GFS intends to engage the overseas manufacturer for the installation and certification for the loudhailer system on the first S76 and Blackhawk only. He will require the manufacturer to allow GFS staff to observe and learn the installation work so that they will then be able to carry out the installation work for the remaining helicopters.

8. As regards paragraph 6(a)(i) above, the cost covers drawings, installation instructions, manual amendments and all parts for the six S76s. Parts include amplifiers, control panel, six speaker array, power booster, cassette player, switch panel, and interface wiring.

9. As regards paragraph 6(a)(ii) above, the cost covers the provision of a manufacturer's engineer in Hong Kong to support the first installation and conduct all necessary testing for certification of the first helicopter. As indicated in paragraph 7, GFS staff will carry out the installation and testing work for the remaining five S76s.

10. As regards paragraph 6(b)(i) above, the cost covers drawings, installation instructions, manual amendments, and specialist tooling for the structural changes for the three Blackhawks. It also includes all structural components and parts for an access door and shelving for the three helicopters. These structural changes are a pre-requisite to the introduction of the loudhailer system on the Blackhawks.

11. As regards paragraph 6(b)(ii), the cost covers drawings, installation instructions and manual amendments for the loudhailer system for all three Blackhawks. It also includes structural fittings and all parts similar to those referred to in paragraph 8 above for the three helicopters.

12. As regards paragraph 6(b)(iii) above, the cost covers the manufacturer's technical support to complete all work related to the first Blackhawk. This includes provision for two manufacturer's structural engineers and a quality control technician to complete the access door and shelf installation for one Blackhawk. In addition, one structural technician, one electrician, one engineer/pilot and one inspector supplied by the manufacturer will complete the loudhailer installation and flight tests for the first Blackhawk. GFS staff will carry out the installation and testing work for the remaining two Blackhawks.

13. As regards paragraph 6(c) above, the cost covers the transportation of parts, tooling and spares.

14. As regards paragraph 6(d) above, the cost covers the provision of spare parts to support helicopter installations.

15. For safety reasons and technical compatibility, we have to procure the equipment and service from the manufacturer of the helicopters. The equipment and cost of installation and other services are all fixed price items. It is therefore not necessary for us to include a contingency provision in the estimate.

16. Members will note that the unit cost for installing the system in Blackhawks is more than that of S76s. This is because the Blackhawks are of military design. By their design, the Blackhawk model, unless modified, cannot take a proven and qualified loudhailer system. It requires installation of additional structural access panels and shelving for the loudhailer system. The need for full design, development and testing accounts for the considerably higher equipment and installation costs. Members may however wish to note that a Blackhawk can stay airborne for significantly longer periods, has more than four times the fire fighting capacity of one S76 and more than four times the underslung load capacity of one S76. They are thus very useful for search and rescue work during major disasters.

17. There will be no additional staffing implications. The annual recurrent costs will be insignificant and GFS will absorb them from within its existing resources.

18. We have not included any provision in the 1996-97 Estimates to meet the one-off cost of this proposal. If Members approve the proposal, we will provide supplementary provisions under delegated authority. Controller, GFS, expects to settle all payments in 1996-97.


19. The GFS operates six S76 and three Blackhawk helicopters. It provides a safe, efficient and cost effective flying service to support the work of various Government departments and 24-hour coverage of air ambulance as well as search and rescue services.

20. Installation of public address system on GFS helicopters is one of the recommendations of the investigation team of the Pat Sin Leng hill fire. Though the proposed loudhailer system would permit only one-way communication from the helicopters to the search and rescue teams on the ground or in water, Members may wish to note that we are also taking action to purchase other equipment which can significantly improve co-ordination during search and rescue operations. Such equipment includes radio communication systems by which the winchman down the helicopter rescue hoist cable can communicate with the helicopter crew.

Security Branch

June 1996

Last Updatd on 2 December 1998