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COVER STORY
Then Commander Erickson is shown here
congratulating the rescuing pilot, Ensign W. C.
Bolton, for a job well done.
(Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard
Aviation Association)
lots and 255 mechanics while making sig-
nificant advances in helicopter flight
which included, search and rescue, ship-
board operations and anti-submarine war-
fare (Induction Citation, n.d.). They also
worked tirelessly to refine helicopter flota-
tion systems, instrument flight capabili-
ties, autopilot systems and possibly most
important of all for an aircraft in need of
increased capability, develop the rescue
hoist and rescue basket. The rescue hoist
was a huge step forward for the helicopter
and really maximized its unique flight
abilities. The original hoist was made
from parts salvaged from a junkyard and
was painfully slow and underpowered. pounds at two and a half feet per second copter rescues possible; it is standard
Commander Erickson and his men solved (Sikorsky, S., 2006). Today the rescue equipment on all rescue helicopters and
this problem by switching to a hydrauli- hoist is the key piece of equipment that the rescue basket is often referred to as an
cally powered unit that could lift up to 400 has made some of the most daring heli- Erickson Basket.
In the mid 1940’s, as British and Navy
support for helicopter training and de-
velopment was drying up another road-
block to Commander Erickson and the
helicopter was emerging at Coast Guard
Headquarters. Longtime helicopter ad-
vocates and Erickson supporters Captain
Kossler and Admiral Waesche passed
away. New people in influential posi-
tions were convinced that seaplanes were
the way ahead for the Coast Guard not
helicopters. Commander Erickson lost
much of his support and was relieved of
his command in Brooklyn. He was even-
tually transferred to the Coast Guard base
in Elizabeth City, NC where he was put
in charge of an ill-defined and poorly re-
sourced helicopter development project.
With a small staff, a badly damaged rep-
utation and all but a few of the Coast
Guard’s helicopters put in storage, the
once promising future of the rescue heli-
copter seemed bleak. Commander Er-
ickson led one last ditch effort to make
the helicopter the great search and res-
cue vehicle that he still believed it could
be. He took advantage of the relative re-
moteness of the eastern seaboard of Vir-
ginia and North Carolina, employing the
few remaining helicopters on search and
rescue missions. He also kept some
Navy interest in the helicopter by con-
tinuing to develop the helicopter’s role
HELI-EXPO BOOTH #1317
18 ROTORCRAFT PROFESSIONAL • January 2010
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