771 Naval Air Squadron
For nearly half a century, 771 Naval Air Squadron – known as the Ace of Clubs – has lived up to its motto non nobis solum – ‘not unto us alone’, or in 21st-Century speak, 'for the greater good'. Our Sea Kings are scrambled at least 200 times a year, and the figure is rising.
2013 marked the 60th Anniversary of Royal Navy helicopter Search and Rescue saving lives. On the 31st January, 12 Dragonfly HR1/HR3 helicopters from 705 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Gosport (HMS Siskin) responded to urgent requests for help following extensive flooding in east Anglia and the Netherlands. Over 840 people were saved, with one pilot accounting for 111 rescues in seven hours of flying, whilst another saved 102; thus was born Royal Navy helicopter Search and Rescue.
Follow the winch-man’s instructions at all times. If you are asked to maintain a course and speed, do not be distracted.
Helicopters may generate down-draught, noise, spray and static electricity as they hover. As a general guide, you should always carry out the following :-
Before the Helicopter Arrives:
Secure or stow any loose objects that may be affected by the down-draught.
Advise the distressed diver what is about to happen. Provide reassurance.
Write down the dive profile to give to the winch-man. Include details about the diver.
Continually monitor the diver’s condition.
Identify a large clear area for winching.
Clear away all non-essential personnel.
Be ready to communicate with the helicopter on VHF Channel 16 or 67.
Have orange smoke ready to identify your position to the helicopter
Dive computers will also be of value to recompression facilities.
More often than not, dive buddies will also be evacuated.
The helicopter crew will assess the craft for safe winching operations. If it is safe, do exactly as requested. You may be required to lower aerials, to get underway at slow speed or to receive a weighted rope. Whichever method is used, it is important that you follow the instructions given.
Do not touch the winch-man, winch wire or weight unless indicated by the winch-man. The static electricity can cause severe shocks.
The distinctive Sea King Mk5 – painted red and grey – saves hundreds of lives each year on Search and Rescue thanks to the selfless acts of Navy crews above the stormy waters of the Western Approaches or the mountains of western Scotland. The helicopters operate from two bases – Culdrose near Helston in Cornwall, and HMS Gannet on the edge of Prestwick Airport near Ayr in Scotland – and provide 24-hour cover over the Irish Sea, Bristol Channel and English Channel as well as the Cornish peninsula and the difficult terrain of the Scottish Highlands. Apart from two pilots (equipped with night vision goggles for difficult missions in the dark) each Sea King is crewed by an observer and an aircrewman, who’s also trained in first aid. We are called upon to perform a myriad of rescue missions: sailors in distress, downed aircrew (thankfully very rarely), flood victims, missing or injured climbers, tourists who’ve fallen down cliffs, people involved in road accidents, and medical emergencies.
For more information http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk
Air-sea rescue by flying boat or floatplane was the first method used to pick up aviators or sailors who were struggling in the water. Any other aircraft design had the additional danger of ditching in the water and requiring immediate rescue, but seaplanes could land on the water in an emergency and wait for rescue. Long range, endurance, and the ability to stay on station for long periods of time were seen as essential to naval aviation requirements for rescue aircraft. Robust radio equipment was necessary for contact with land and ocean surface forces. Training and weather accidents could require an aircrew to be rescued, and seaplanes were occasionally used for that purpose. The limitation was that if the water's surface were too rough, the aircraft would not be able to land. The most that could be done was to drop emergency supplies to the survivors, or to signal surface ships or rescue boats to guide them to the correct location. An early air-sea rescue was performed in August 1911 by Hugh Robinson who landed his Curtiss Aeroplane Company seaplane on Lake Michigan to pull a crashed pilot out of the water.
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