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operates approximately 450 helicopters including S-92s, CD-225s, DC155s, AS332L-2 (Tiger) and S-76s. In the UK alone, Bristow completed its 10,000th SAR mission in late 2005 and has flown in excess of 15,000 SAR hours rescuing nearly 7,000 people. “Aircraft are very sophisticated and ex- pensive devices,” says Bond. “And the hoists aren’t cheap, but crewmen are irre- placeable and when you put the crewman on a cable near a ship heaving at night, they are in their most vulnerable position.“ With more than 10,000 hours on search and rescue himself, Bond has seen most everything. Over his career he’s served on missions in a variety of terrain and wa- ter that have saved the lives of more than 1,100 people.

“The biggest risk in a hoist rescue is ca- ble damage caused by a heaving deck at night,” says Bond. “When you’re out several hundred miles off shore, the most vulnerable piece of equipment is the ca- ble with a crewmen on the end of the

wire. In heavy seas I’ve seen big ships heaving 15- to 20-meters. If you damage the cable slightly you really cannot risk winching in with damaged cable so with dual hoists we can ‘de-risk’ the situation simply by transferring to the other hoist.”

Back-up is Critical to a Successful Mission

No matter what kind of hoist a heli- copter is equipped with, or how many hoists an aircraft has, redundancy and flexibility are critical to success. “Many agencies, whether they’re commercial operators, government search and rescue, or law enforcement, get their first hoist and think, ‘We never need to deal with short haul again,” Matheson says. “That’s possible, but you never know what a rescue is going to throw your way and you may need to resort to former op- tions as a back-up in the event of a non- functioning hoist.”

That’s why Matheson requires on-go- ing emergency training exercises in short

haul, for his duty air crews and instruc- tors. “We tell clients to try to keep as many back-up systems as possible if they’re not equipped with dual hoists.”

Train, Train, Train

Every search and rescue specialist un- derstands the value of training. But Bond, Johnson, and Matheson can’t emphasize training enough. “Volatile” skills, those that search and rescue personnel execute instinctively, are the only kind of skills that matter in the heat of battle. They be- come part of the regimen, part of the res- cuer, and they are an essential part of performing successful missions. “The most difficult jobs we do are seaborne jobs where there’s a high sea state, low visibility, driving rain, usually at night, with a small deck,” says CHC’s Johnson. “Getting airborne out here in force nine or force ten gales is a common occurrence. If you have to think, we’ve got a problem.”

Continued on page 20 • August 2009

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