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Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino also serves as a rescue specialist.


Under the nose of the aircraft sits the housing for the L3 WESCAM MX-10 camera. Compact and lightweight at under 40 pounds, the MX-10 adds a lot of capability to the search aspect of Two Bear Air Rescue’s mission. “We were called in to look for two girls who were missing for two days and two nights in Glacier National Park,” Pierce says. “We finally found something with the IR camera nearly two miles away up on a cliff. We got closer and could clearly see the two girls at the top of the ridge. We have no idea how they got there.” Just a day before, the air rescue operation had tracked bears in that same location. “They were very, very lucky,” he adds with the satisfaction of a successful rescue: another two lives saved.


When they are not rescuing lost hikers off of cliffs, the crews keep proficient with the advanced features of the camera by locating bears and other tagged wildlife in the wilderness for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. It’s a conservation effort offered at no cost to the researcher while allowing camera training for the crews.


52 July/Aug 2020


The WESCAM’s daylight fusion mode combines the benefits of IR with a daytime picture to allow accurate tracking through dense foliage even in bright daylight conditions.


In a corner of the hangar sits two bright red Recco locator devices on charge and ready to be deployed. Two Bear Air Rescue was the first operator in North America to receive Recco locators, and has since used them to good effect. Weighing in at 170 pounds, the Recco locators are designed to be slung, or in more practical use, hoisted outside of the aircraft. The locator emits a signal that is reflected off of Recco reflectors that are becoming more common on ski-jackets and backpacks for backcountry adventurers. The reflector bounces the signal back to the locator and emits an audible ping to the crew. As the helicopter gets closer to the source of the reflector, the ping gets louder, until the aircraft is positioned directly over the source of the reflection.


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