The helicopter offers clear advantages for emergency medical services, but just how did an industry evolve to fill this life-saving role?
Podcast: Revolutions in Vertical Flight S2 E1 - The Search and Rescue Mission
Welcome to Shephard Studio’s podcast series on Revolutions in Vertical Flight, sponsored by our partner Bell.
In our first series, we learnt about the history of vertical flight and discovered the key pioneers and revolutionary moments that created the rotorcraft industry we know today.
In this second series, we learn more about the helicopter’s role in society, and how it helps overcome obstacles, protect the public and ultimately save lives.
We'll hear from a range of operators about how they use helicopters to carry out those tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to conduct by other means. We consider the future, discovering how greater autonomy is poised to reshape the role of rotorcraft even further.
In this episode, we focus on the search and rescue mission.
The helicopter’s lifesaving role was a key motivation in the early days of its development. Since their introduction to the role, helicopters have only grown in importance in search and rescue, saving lives in almost every environment and operational context for militaries on the battlefield, to coast guards in sectors such as oil and gas.
Episode 2 of the second series: The Lifesaving Helicopter is here.
A transcript of this episode is below:
Mike Suldo 00:07: Because of the alligators and the mosquitoes, nobody wanted to go in there. But the helicopters could get them in.
Tyler Johns 00:12: The only way that person can get rescued, because of where they're at, is with a helicopter.
Stan Rose 00:18: We are all ne'er do wells on the part of the ride ‘em never check ‘em generation.
Josh Forteza 00:32: Well, this is my first air unit, so I don't have too many stories quite yet.
Narrator 00:38 This is Lieutenant Josh Forteza, a helicopter pilot at US Coast Guard Air Station, Humboldt Bay in California.
Josh Forteza 00:47: I was involved in a rescue in 2017. It was about 9:30 at night. Pretty dark night and a young man fell down a cliff up near Crescent City. Just a sheer cliff face. He was about 200 feet above the water, which was just breaking surf below him. All we knew was where he was at and that he was clinging to the side of the cliff. We got out there. We were only able to find him because we had our night vision goggles down and he had a little bit of battery left on his phone. He was able to flash the light on it and it just lit up like the moon or the sun. It was that bright. We knew exactly where he was. He was live.
We were able to determine that we didn't quite have the power yet that the aircraft was unable to sustain a hover at about 250 feet because of the trees, and the just the sheer vertical cliff. We had to go offshore, get a little lighter, burn some fuel down, and then we were able to come back. It probably wasn't that assuring for the young man on the cliffs seeing the helicopter fly away. But it was in his best interest for us to get a little lighter first and increase our power margin. We came back around, conducted a hoist from about 250 feet above him. It was about a 500 foot above the water hoist when it was all said and done. We were able to land at Crescent City and get him back home safe. That was the situation or the case that I fondly remember. It was my first search and rescue case here on the Lost Coast and I'll never forget it. It was a great happy story.
Narrator 02:42: Welcome to Shephard Studios Revolutions in Vertical Flight, brought to you in partnership with Bell. In our first series, we learnt about the history of vertical flight and discovered the key pioneers and revolutionary moments that created the rotorcraft industry we know today. In this second series, we learn more about the helicopter’s role in society, and how it helps overcome obstacles, protect the public and ultimately save lives. We'll hear from a range of operators about how they use helicopters to carry out those tasks that are too expensive or dangerous to conduct by other means. We consider the future, discovering how greater autonomy is poised to reshape the role of rotorcraft even further.
Igor Sikorsky 03:39: I would like to mention briefly just one, which is particularly valuable and particularly dear to me, which is which to my mind forums, one of the most glorious pages of human flight. It is a story of air rescue by airplanes, and lately by helicopters. Concerning the helicopters to my information and I made a reasonably accurate study the number of lives that have been saved, may be considerably above 100,000. It is probably reaching possibly already exceeding 200,000 lives. Now this is the result, not merely of the ships, but mostly and mainly of the skill, ability and courage of our flying man. All of them. Therefore to this flying man in completing my address, I would like to express this time, my thankfulness and friendship, my deepest respect and admiration. I thank you all.
Narrator 04:49: That was Igor Sikorsky. Speaking in 1967 after being awarded the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy. It's no surprise that the helicopter pioneer chose to highlight search and rescue in his acceptance speech. In fact, as we heard in series one, for Igor Sikorsky and other pioneers, the helicopter’s lifesaving role was a key motivation in the early days of its development. In the decades since Sikorsky speech, helicopters have only grown in importance in search and rescue, saving lives in almost every environment and operational context for militaries on the battlefield, to coast guards in sectors such as oil and gas. In this episode, we'll hear from industry experts and helicopter operators about the rise of the helicopter as a search and rescue machine, and how they're saving lives today. But first, here's Igor Sikorsky’s son Sergei, speaking at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC to provide more context to his father's life saving goal.
Sergei Sikorsky 06:02: The helicopter began to grow in size in versatility. Very shortly after that, he returned to that very first dream of his. The helicopter as a lifesaving mechanism. The first rescue hoists were built at that time. I was honoured, privileged, in the military service to be of the small team, with the Coast Guard at Floyd Bennett Field to develop and perfect to the rescue hoist and the rescue basket, and a number of other things connected to the helicopter, capable of being used then as a true lifesaving machine.
Today the helicopter in various military services, - I think General you might recognise that machine there - is being used around the world. It also has and continues my father's dream of a machine for the saving of human lives. To design and build a helicopter is a relatively simple thing. That if the helicopter has any reputation at all, it is because of the men and the women that fly them. It is not the manufacturer. It is the people that fly them. The people here that go out into harm's way. Sometimes into terrible weather, well beyond handbook weather limits. Go out there. For instance, as the Coast Guard goes almost on a daily basis up in Alaska.
The helicopter has become a unique instrument in my father's vision for the saving of human lives. You can go on and on with rescues. You can go on with rescues in Acapulco. In 1956, when a hurricane hit, and there happened to be by coincidence, an American aircraft carrier with a marine H-34 squadron onboard. Those guys saved 12,000 Mexicans in the next two days, from certain death in the floods. You can take Katrina more recently, where over 42,000 inhabitants were lifted out by helicopter. 42,000 people. Very many of which, if it had not been for the helicopter would probably have died for lack of food, for lack of water. Because there were places in there that you couldn't swim and you couldn't wade through it. Because there were too many snakes around.
You can take others. For instance, relatively unknown here, India, a year ago, suffered a typhoon a very freak typhoon that dumped tonnes of water on the foothills in Nepal. Two rivers flooded and over 120,000 people in those provinces were trapped, with no way of getting out, and no way of getting in. With flooded waters with landslides and snow slides and glacier slide, all over the place. The Indian Air Force and Army mustered all of their helicopters. The helicopter started shuttling into these places, flying in medicine, flying in doctors and medical technicians and flying out severely and critically wounded. In eight days, that fleet of Indian military helicopters, we're talking jam packed, no seat belts, no safety belts nothing. We just rammed them into the aircraft until the cabin was jammed. Then you made a running takeoff and prayed that the engines would run, and they flew out. In those very brief few days, the Indian Air Force evacuated 68,000 people from the flooded areas.
Narrator 10:35: Igor Sikorsky is work in the 1940s, particularly through the development of the R-4 hoverfly pioneered the lifesaving capabilities of helicopters. The hoverfly has the distinction of rescuing the first civilian by helicopter in April 1944, and later that year conducting the first helicopter combat rescue mission in Burma. These efforts took place against a rapidly developing technological backdrop. Here is Jeremy Graham, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and former chief engineer for Augusta Westland.
Jeremy Graham 11:13: In 1945, a Focke-Achgelis 223 dragon was flown into AFEE, which is airborne forces experimental establishment I believe. With it came documentation and manuals. I don't believe the aircraft came with the hardware but in the manuals was a search and rescue hoist arrangement. So clearly, Fokker had in mind that his aircraft would be used for search and rescue activities. I'm sure the entire focus at that stage was rescuing military aircrew that have been downed and had to be recovered. Folklore in the industry says that the first search and rescue mission was conducted by an R-4, what we would call hoverfly in the UK, the Sikorsky R-4 flying in Burma in April of 1944. The actual mission, first mission that was performed is a little less clear, because depending on what you read, it was either rescuing chindits soldiers who'd been badly wounded, or American aircrew who had to bail out. In both cases, though, that aircraft although it was very performance limited, managed to achieve the recovery of the injured personnel in a matter of hours per flight. But certainly the chindit case where they brought back I think three soldiers, I believe it took them three days to do it. But each flight was a matter of hours, as opposed to weeks on foot to rescue these people.
As far as I know, that is the first use of a rotorcraft as a search and rescue vehicle. I'm quite sure that Sikorsky and all the other original designers are practical, and probably impractical helicopters had in mind, exactly this mission, the recovery of people in distress, that could not be reached by any other means. Well where you've got a situation where the fixed wing alternative could not land, then clearly an aircraft that can hover over the distressed person is going to make recovery practical, achievable, whereas otherwise it wouldn't be. I wouldn't say necessarily a perfect solution because you have to need to stop to pick somebody up and have no landing site and no recognised landing site as well.
If you had the luxury of being able to use a fixed wing to achieve the recovery, likelihood is you would reach further and certainly go faster. But in many cases, of course, that luxury isn't available. Looking at the history of the R-4, the hoverfly there were lots of experiments done both in the US and in the UK. I suspect elsewhere as well. Trying to understand how the helicopter as a flying vehicle could be used in this role. Hoverfly although it achieved the first actual rescues, had a very limited performance. The rescues in Burma were right at the edge of the aircraft's capability. Probably if it hadn't been in wartime with the guys being rescued, or haven't been severely wounded, that probably wouldn't have launched the mission. It was simply very marginal. But nonetheless, the aircraft proved useful to experiment with ways and means of achieving a rescue, with the command and control that you might need with the concept of operation with the type of flying that's required.
The air crew were able to train for the mission, even if they weren't able really to have an aircraft under them that had the performance that would make it truly useful. That went on through the 40s in both countries. I don't know of any civil organisation at that stage that was actually experimenting with the rotorcraft for this role. All the work that I'm aware of was very heavily focused on the military application, the recovery of downed military aircrew, the evacuation of wounded ground forces.
Narrator 15:59: So how did we get from there to here? As we will hear again later in the series, the use of helicopters during the Korean War, and later in Vietnam firmly placed rotorcraft on the path is air rescue machines in the civilian world.
Jeremy Graham 16:16: The Korean War gave it a massive push. An American Air Force had what we would call S51s or dragonflies, I believe they call them H-5s. The American Air Force deployed these in Korea from the very earliest time. It was pretty quickly deployed across the front line as well. Incursions into enemy airspace was very quickly adopted by these aircraft. You can trace the genesis of how the US Air Force operates today, with a sort of multi-layered arrangement of fast jets, helicopters and other aircraft where they're all mutually supportive of each other. The helicopter is actually doing the recovery of the downed personnel but the other aircraft have a very important spotting and protective role.
That's very much the case today, the US Air Force have developed that to fine art today, and that was that started in Korea. You could call that the origin of combat SAR. As far as the use of civilian types is concerned, the earliest use I can find I'm aware of, was to support operations in Vietnam by the French. So the First Indochina War did experiment with a Hiller 360, which rapidly turned into a military force of these little Hiller aircraft that did do combat SAR for the French. In the UK, I would say that the until recently, the search and rescue helicopter force was military in nature, and its purpose was the military the combat role, where they would train for the recovery of India ground forces and downed pilots. The fact that they then adopted a civilian role as well was not accidental, but almost incidental, if you like.
Having trained for the combat SAR role, they had a level of expertise and the machinery underneath them to be able to be called on for search and rescue in a civilian sense. If you look around the world, I would still say that there's a predominance of military operators providing this sort of search and rescue. I know in the UK that's changed. I can even tell you when it changed if I think about it hard. I think since about 1980, the Coast Guard started to contract civilian operators to provide certain search and rescue facilities, alongside the military units. Since 2013, it's been contractarised. The military side of search and rescue really doesn't exist anymore in the UK in the way that it did. They still train for combat SAR. I guess in extremists if the contractors, civilian force was found wanting in some way or needed extra support, I'm sure the military would deploy to help them. But the role they had from middle of the 50s probably right up to 1980 is not there anymore.
Narrator 19:52: Today various different types of helicopter operators rely on rotorcraft to save lives. However, they are perhaps most commonly associated with coast guards around the world. Just how important is the helicopter in this work? At US Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay, Lieutenant Josh Forteza provides an operator's insight into the necessity of helicopters for search and rescue.
Josh Forteza 20:21: Helicopters are vital to what we do in the Coast Guard as search and rescue as a whole. The advantages of helicopters is second to none, and it's unmatched. When we're conducting searches over the water, or along the coastline, if there's something that catches our eye or interest, we're able to quickly turn around, take another look at it, hover if we need to, and really get a good look at it at low and slow speeds, low altitudes and slow speeds. You just can't get that with a fixed wing. You're so focused on flying the aircraft, you're not able to get quite as low. Of course, with stall speeds, as slow as a helicopter could so and that's just to say, looking for objects. Of course, when we do find somebody or something, we're able to get almost anywhere and pull them out. It's really an unmatched advantage.
Narrator 21:14: Overall knife is genuinely growing safer for the public. While search and rescue technology has vastly improved, particularly when it comes to the search element. However, the work remains highly challenging.
Josh Forteza 21:29: But just last night, there were a few hikers on the Lost Coast Trail that were rescued. It was four hikers, two who were injured and then the other two were pulled up just so that they weren't left alone there on the coast. But here in Humboldt Bay, we get about 50 to 60 search and rescue cases a year. That can range from a report of something that was seen, to an actual credible person reporting distress. Percentage of land based search and rescue, most of the land based missions we do are what we call agency assist. If the Humboldt County Sheriff, Cal Fire, any of our partner agencies request some kind of help, somebody is missing, or a firefighter is injured, we can assist with that.
We often do. Most of the cases we've actually been receiving have been agency assist related. Maritime based has not been quite as much as it used to be in the past. But we're happy to help out our partner agencies when we can. Most recently we had rescue out of the middle fire. That was in 2019, there were two firefighters that injured themselves and a couple of the pilots rescue swimmer and flight mechanic and went out there right over the fire zone and extracted these firefighters and really put the helicopter to the limits as far as power. The pilots were strained, it was night the smoke right over a fire zone. These guys did real heroes’ work. That's just an example of one of these land-based rescues.
The challenge is, is nothing is ever quite as it seems. You get a case called in, you think it's one person you think this is where they're at. That's just never the case, everything is always changing. Something we always have to be, is just flexible. Where that gets tricky is when it comes to risk management. As with everything in aviation, you have to manage the risks to what are the potential gains. When you're departing out of our home station here out of Arcata, and we're going down to say Point Arena along the coast, we think the weather is good. All of a sudden we get down there and the weather is actually pretty foggy, half a mile visibility straight down to the water. We're not able to see. We have to really evaluate now. Well, we did fly all the way out here. But is it safe for us to put this aircraft and this crew into a situation where we might be getting pretty close to land and not being able to see it? Is it worth it at this point? Is there another agency that's able to assist this person? Or are we there last hope? These are all the things that we have to consider with search and rescue and particularly here on the on the Lost Coast when the weather is just always changing. Sometimes we are that person's last hope so that's something that weighs heavily on us.
Narrator 24:49: To fulfil this demanding and crucial task, operators rely on sensors and other systems that have steadily evolved over the years. To provide some flavour about what that involves, Lieutenant Forteza describes the capabilities of Humboldt Bay's MH-65 helicopters.
Josh Forteza 25:10: Well the helicopters got a number of capabilities. We have surface search radar, which helps the pilots increase their situational awareness by knowing where certain rock croppings are, where the coastline ends. That keeps us safe when we really can't see too much. We've got search lights, HF radio capabilities, which becomes important when we're doing inland search and rescue missions where we might not be able to reach home base, because we're in a valley or something like that. So we can talk to pretty much anywhere throughout the country. We've even picked up say Alaska on a couple of the frequencies, which is kind of neat. But I think one of the biggest assets we have on the aircraft is not even just equipment base, it's our rescue swimmer. Honestly, the whole crew, but the rescue swimmer is the guy who is being deployed down and he's able to make some unseen risk base decisions, how to extricate somebody, how to package a patient, determine if this patient is safe to be removed from the scene. Then of course, providing critical lifesaving care to this patient as well. They're an invaluable asset as with everybody on the crew, but these are the people that are actually being removed from the aircraft, and then put on the ground or in the water to make decisions.
Narrator 26:34: The US Coast Guard is also able to take advantage of the autopilot features of the MH-65.
Josh Forteza 26:41: The H-65 Delta aircraft is able to be coupled to the flight director in a couple of different ways. We’re able to command an airspeed, a heading, altitude, and even couple it to an approach to the water. We do a number of practices out off the coast of Humboldt Bay here to the sea buoy. That's just one example. But it could be a boat, it can be anything that's out there, just an arbitrary point where last known position of somebody. We’ll put in some GPS coordinates and the aircraft will begin a controlled descent down to 55 feet. Upon passing through 100 feet, it begins to enter a controlled hover. Passing through 100 feet, there's a sensor below the aircraft that determines that it is 100 feet, called the radar altimeter. Once you pass through that, it will actually come to a 55 foot zero ground speed hover over a position.
That gets us out of a lot of jams for sure. Once we're down there, if we don't find anything, or if the pilots have some kind of spatial disorientation going on, we just click one button. It's called the go around button and the aircraft will actually begin a controlled climb at 700 feet per minute away from the ground. Which again, you get into a pinch don't know what's going on, hit this button. It's almost like a get out of jail free card, which is great. Other capabilities. Here obviously Humboldt Bay is incredibly foggy. We can actually couple the aircraft to the iOS with the Instrument Landing System. It'll capture on both vertical and horizontal guidance and bring us down to again 55 feet over the ground. That helps us get back home after a long sour case, and it's super foggy and we don't want to fly by hand. It's really helpful to have.
Narrator 28:46: While civilian search and rescue helicopters are a familiar sight to most of us today, that hasn't always been the case. In Christchurch, New Zealand, the city saw its first rescue by a civilian helicopter in the mid-1980s. This was in the form of a Hughes 500 operated by Garden City helicopters now known as GCH Aviation. Simon Duncan was a member of that rescue team and is now the company's General Manager.
Simon Duncan 29:17: Okay, so I did the first ever rescue for the company as a volunteer. I was in lifesaving myself. The pilot Roger Corbin approached me and said, hey, can we jump you on the helicopter? I said, well, I've done that before. I've been trained up in Auckland with the Auckland Serve Rescue Service. Then Roger dropped me in the water about a kilometre of New Brighton Beach. Then we went back to the beach and got John to hook on the scoop net. Myself and my friend John Taylor sat out there and waited for Roger to come back. As Roger approaches the hook opened up and dropped the suit in the water right beside us. That was my first intro to surf rescue at Christchurch and so I end up swimming home.
Fortunately I’m a good swimmer. JT said to me, well why don't we just get the rescue boat crew to come signal to them. I said, because we are the rescue boat crew. He goes, oh we are too. That was not a very good introduction. Then we carried on with Roger done quite a bit of comprehensive training mainly around abseiling stuff and helicopter safety. The first mission we ever did was off the coast of Tim Row. We were asked by the police to go in and take a very sick seaman off a fishing boat of Tim Row. We got down there and Roger hover loaded me onto the ship, we go on the back, drop, the basket down pull him onto the deck. I probably sit there and made up the rescue baskets, and then had to go and assist the patient who wasn't speaking English, which is also a challenge and I could smell alcohol on the entire crew.
I thought this is gonna be quite interesting. The guy wasn't very keen to come with us. It turned out he had actually managed to somehow to get the beans and 20 Ks at the sea, I really struggled to understand where you get the beans. He must have been diving under the ship to clear a net or something. We never got to the bottom of why he was beans. Anyway, he was pretty unhappy to be going under the helicopter and on a strap back to shore. But his friends helped me secure him into the stretcher to the point where I used bandages to tie his hands down because I didn't want him trying to escape or trying to undo the line as we went back to the coast. Fortunately, a local fishing boat came along. He shuttled us back to the beach. But my first challenge was to actually get the rescue basket hooked onto the bottom of the helicopter.
I had to climb the mast at the front of the fishing vessel in a test and climbed up with the line in my teeth and then hook the carabiner onto the Hughes 500 and then quickly shimmered down back on the mast and hook myself on just in time for before Roger pulled us off the front of the boat, and swung us out to sea. It’s about a 20 kilometre ride on a hook back to the shore. I was quite heavy. I had a knife and a life jacket overtop of my wet suit wearing a harness. I couldn't understand why this guy was not so heavy, but I guess he didn't have any control over what his movements gonna be. So that's probably why he was unheavy. But anyway, we took him back to Tim Row and a little on the beach in Tim Row. Then we loaded him into the back of a helicopter and flew him to the local hospital and there they assist him. They say his system is beat so we had to take him to Christchurch.
That little mission turned out to be a bit longer than we had predicted. We're all well and good for fuel and things. We loaded the guy on the back of the 500 and flew to Hagley Park in Christchurch. Then he was admitted at Christchurch Hospital. People weren't used to it because we were the first ever civilian rescue helicopter in Christchurch. People may be up in Mount Cook, and that sort of thing might have understood that type of process. But in the past was only Air Force at Christchurch doing rescues. However, what the local police found was that the Air Force took a long time to get activated. We would be activated in sort of 20 minutes half an hour to be become airborne for a mission. Whereas they were taking a good hour or longer, two even. And had to go through a whole lot of permissions and things from the various accountability bosses. It was a new thing that to Christchurch.
Narrator 33:28: It comes as little surprise that the Air Rescue Mission has changed significantly since GCH began operations in the 1980s.
Simon Duncan 33:37: We had no equipment. In fact, I think I bought the first rescue line for the company and I was only a volunteer. It was quite an interesting process. John Kerry went about forming an air rescue trust and he got together with Dr. Keith Drayton, and formed the local Christchurch Air Rescue Trust, which later became the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust. Which is still in existence now. The whole idea of the trust was to save that the fund for helping to pay for spacious equipment and the training needs of the crew. In the old days, because I'd been trained in surf lifesaving, I actually did the initial training of all the paramedics and hid onboard the helicopter in Christchurch. Then as you say, we got into more rescue gear we got specialist gear like winches, which were quite another set of training and a lot of training of the people riding on the winch. The company has made a big investment and also air rescue trust and to training and equipment and one of the best equipment the rescue trust in the country because of that.
Narrator 34:43: The diverse nature of the search and rescue role was tragically illustrated in April 1995, when a scenic viewing platform in New Zealand's Paparoa National Park collapsed resulting in the deaths of 14 people. The tragedy is known as the Cave Creek Disaster.
Simon Duncan 35:01: I guess the one mission that stands out for me, was when I was involved in was the Cave Creek tragedy. I was the winch operator on that particular job. When we left Christchurch we were under the understanding that there had been a platform collapse at the Punicki Rock, and possibly 12 people injured. As we got closer to the scene, we were given more updates from the control centre to say that actually, there’s at least four dead and maybe 12 injured. When we got there it was in fact the other way around. It was 12 dead and four injured. It was nowhere near the Punicki Rock. It was in a cabin, inland quite a while. I do recall, as we hover down trying to position ourselves to extract the victims, we had 104 feet of usable cable on a square winch, and I had 103 feet of it out, so it was really tight. The skid was sitting on the branch of a tree, not putting too much weight on me, of course, and had something like about two metres of rotor clearance all the way around the aircraft. That's when all that training and things really came into play. I had 11 minutes of advisor pilot hold the same position, and we had to winch two paramedics down onto the platform below, plus their equipment. Then the cabin so another aircraft would come in and put more medics on. We were supported on that day with the army air. Because we weee really operating at the limit of our capability on that particular job.
Narrator 36:40: In many ways, civilian search and rescue can be similar to military operations. Every situation is different to the next, and the environment is largely uncontrolled.
Simon Duncan 36:52: Everyone has its challenges. I also recall other missions exponentially where you had parapointers with their sails clinging to the rocks and their feet dangling below. The next stop for them was 500 feet down onto the breaking waves below you. They don't write things in which men was about that type of thing. You've got to do what you think is based on at the time. So there's a fair bit of what are you gonna do here for this one to the pilot, and of course serums really, really important. With the crews working together. We don't like putting out a mixer in the position where they cannot surf extract. In fact, we won't do this. I guess one good thing about this company attached wouldn't I say this was within 35 years without hurting anyone, which is very unheard of and EMAS. So we're very fortunate. But I think their biggest driver for that culture is in fact there's there's no commercial pressure from the company to do anything that's going to date endanger the crew of the aircraft. that is our role. I guess that's an unwritten rule that would speak to every crew member in pilot when they come here is that we given that talk and that the pilot command as a pilot commanders in this company, and so, as on the say, so that crews will go and execute the mission.
Narrator 38:12: Today, the search and rescue sector is a major focus for the industry that supports helicopter operators, reflecting its importance around the globe. manufacturers such as Bell have seen significant changes over the years. One key trend is a move towards single engine helicopters, such as the bell 505 or 407. These light helicopters are versatile, capable of adapting to many different missions from search and rescue to law enforcement. Here's Matt Jain, marketing manager for the 505. To explain more,
Matt Jayne 38:50: We've had a lot of people come to us and say you just can't do it in a utilising a helicopter, we need a hoist we need to be able to do this and that. I think traditionally that that was kind of the mission where you go out in a big twin in a 412 or a 49. You're going out on a hoist and you're dropping down and picking something off the precipice of a cliff. But as you dig into it more, what you start to find is there's a lot of people out there doing that mission with single engine helicopters. So you look at Sonoma County Sheriff's Department does a tonne of work in a 407. the majority of it is underneath a cargo hook doing human external cargo loads. they'll actually have a guy slung load under a cargo hook, go down and pick the guy up and they'll do a short haul and drop them off in a safer place. we're starting to see even on the 505 market where people are looking to do that with lighter helicopters, just based on the improvements in the liability of new platforms. You look at going from a manual control helicopter to a fader control engine. Improvements in engine technology there's so much more liability Such a extremely low failure rate with single engine helicopters now that you can trust the helicopter in that type of operation, whereas before, you see Europe has a lot of regulations where you can't fly a single legendary helicopter over certain metropolitan areas and see required twin. There's a lot of countries like India, that required twins because of this perception that the engine is the weakest component on the helicopter. if you have a failure, you don't know what you're going to do. But what we're seeing a lot more now is, is those countries are opening up a lot more to the single engine market based on the improvements in reliability. even on the search and rescue side, you're starting to see where people are trusting the single engine platform to go out and do that mission. whether or not they're using the hoist or they're using a heck line or even. We have a 505 operator, Montana, that is working with Galveston County Sheriff's Department, which is a volunteer Sheriff's Department. His name is Mark Taylor, he owns Rocky Mountain rotors, but he's actually because they don't have a formal police aviation unit up there are local sheriff's department that can go do these types of things. He'll go pick up a dog team and drop them off, to the mountains there, whether it be Yellowstone or the crazies, whatever it is. they're actually civilians and volunteers out there doing these search and rescue missions in a Bible bog where other parts of the world in other parts of the country, they're using an aircraft that's, 1215 times more expensive, and roughly getting the same result. So, realistically, these these simulated helicopters are out there doing the same mission, the only capability they don't have is that hoist mission and realistically, a lot of regions have a, an asset close enough that they can call for those specialised types of missions when required, but I think it's, I think it's increasingly rare that need a hoist for that type of mission, you can honestly go out there and and do the majority of it in any type of helicopter. I think that the biggest component of that is spotting the person and leading the people on the ground to the location, not necessarily performing the full rescue,
Narrator 42:16: Adaptability and flexibility are key watchwords for all parapublic helicopter operators, airborne law enforcement helicopters, for instance, may well find themselves performing a search and rescue role. Helicopter manufacturers must keep such demands at the front of their minds.
Matt Jayne 42:36: The big thing you get with the helicopters is the versatility. You can get into places you can go places that you can't go in a truck or a car on foot or in an aeroplane you think about you want to get an aeroplane real low and get a couple of guys in binoculars in the back and start looking for, for somebody, you you get fairly limited on how slow you can go and how low you want to go before you start getting into a precarious situation with emergency procedures. Whereas in a helicopter, a helicopter is happiest flying at 500 feet above the ground, which is perfect for a couple people in the back with a set of binoculars looking for somebody on the ground. you're starting to see where we're hearing sheriff's departments that are flying by fives early 50s, or 60s or private individuals or even, we're talking to a company down in Austin that uses light single helicopters for for search mainly. But what they're doing is they're going out there with a couple people a set of binoculars, maybe a FLIR camera, and they're performing that search operation and leading people on the ground to the location of a distressed individual. that whole rescue portion isn't really required unless you get into, highly mountainous terrain or somewhere where you need to put someone on a hoist and get them down there to pick someone up off the cliff side. But when you actually start to look at the country or look at the world, there aren't that many locations that have that type of terrain where that is required. you can you can perform the majority of that mission with something smaller, and you'll have favourable results in that you're locating that person much more quickly from a helicopter than you would from any other means of transportation.
Narrator 44:26: Next time on Revolutions in Vertical Flight, we'll learn how the Vietnam War helped to drive the evolution of the helicopter as an air ambulance. we hear how today the helicopter plays a life saving role with the emergency medical services around the world.
Revolutions in Vertical Flight was produced by Tony Skinner, with interviews conducted by Scott Gourley, script writing by Gerrard Cowen and audio edits by Carmac Media. I'm your narrator to Gennifer Becouarn. Until next time.
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Welcome to Shephard Studio’s podcast series on Revolutions in Vertical Flight, sponsored by our partner Bell. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and more. The Revolutions in Vertical …