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Old 4th Jan 2010, 20:15   #1 (permalink)
 
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Rescue Swimmer vs Winchman Helicopter Rescue Question

Idle time over Christmas leads me to watch various Quest / Dave TV progs showing RAF / Navy Sea Kings and US Coast Guard.
Can't help but wonder why the US Coast Guard guys deploy a free fall rescue swimmer & basket whereas UK services use a winchman.

At risk of starting a p1ssing contest, what are the differences / benefits of the different methods?
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Old 4th Jan 2010, 20:28   #2 (permalink)
 
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In some countries, cars have to drive on the left side....
In some other countries, cars have to drive on the right side.....

What is better?


If you have an experienced guy in the water, who knows how to shift his body into a basket (and keep it inside), it is a good method.....

A swimmer can help a person out of the water into the rescue sling/belt/whatever-and make him secure in it.

When waves are high, a basket can be dangerous-it can hit the person in the water, knocking him or her unconscious.

I cannot say, which method is the best-i think it is depending on the situation...

Any other opinions?
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 03:06   #3 (permalink)
 
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Having flown USCG helicopters for a couple decades, we did both, and used several other methods, too... free-fall makes for the best video, though. What the editor chooses to show isn't necessarily representative of reality.
Distances tend to be greater in US waters than in those of the UK, making hypothermia extremely likely during the aircraft transit to the scene, so many survivors lose the capability of self-rescue. That's one of hundreds of reasons for the genesis of the USCG Rescue Swimmer program. There are thousands of pages of published text on the subject... far too much to go into here.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 06:55   #4 (permalink)
 
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In the French Navy, in open waters, the rescue swimmer remains permanently hooked on the winch cable.

Except for an underwater visit of a sunked ship, he is not allowed to disconnect himself from the cable.

The rescue basket ( billy pugh) is only used as a lift for body remains.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 09:10   #5 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Distances tend to be greater in US waters than in those of the UK, making hypothermia extremely likely during the aircraft transit to the scene
Its strange how our offshore oil and gas cousins in the insist that the water is always warm and fast rescue always assured.

A few questions:-

With deepwater operations in the GOM with 19 seat helicopters should some of the survival issues be looked at again?

I'd heard that after the S92 accident off Nova Scotia the first attempt to rescue the survivor failed because he was unable to get into the basket. Isn't that a reason to go for winchmen rather than baskets?

BTW wasn't an HH-65 lost in the Pacific after its basket caught on the railings of a ship and the cable snapped up unto the rotors? That would be unlikley with a winchman?
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 09:18   #6 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
I'd heard that after the S92 accident off Nova Scotia the first attempt to rescue the survivor failed because he was unable to get into the basket. Isn't that a reason to go for winchmen rather than baskets?

BTW wasn't an HH-65 lost in the Pacific after its basket caught on the railings of a ship and the cable snapped up unto the rotors? That would be unlikley with a winchman?
Those were my thoughts, but I've no qualifications to comment whatsoever, hence the question. I'm sure there must be good reasons for deploying a basket and releasing a winchman / swimmer un-tethered from the machine over water.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 09:20   #7 (permalink)
NNB
 
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rescue swimmers

at the risk of being cencured by the mods, I favour swimmers because I make the gear to help them at work.
Pm me for the web site
being cheeky
NNB
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 10:34   #8 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
BTW wasn't an HH-65 lost in the Pacific after its basket caught on the railings of a ship and the cable snapped up unto the rotors? That would be unlikley with a winchman?
Not exactly. The device in use had nothing to do with the mishap. Also, the cause of the mishap is not what you have heard (nor is it what I first heard, which are probably essentially the same thing). I've read the final report, though I haven't seen the raw engineering data.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 15:06   #9 (permalink)
 
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Personal opinion:

Rescue basket has its place for multiple, uninjured casualties but means there is no control of the casualty/casualties until they are actually in the aircraft and anyone who is too badly injured to get into the basket will need to be rescued another way.

Rescue Swimmers are good for persons in the water or trapped underwater, in caves etc but free dropping to swim to a vessel seems utterly pointless.

Winchman can be put in the water, on a deck, on a mountainside, into a building and immediately has control of the casualty and is able to assess their medical needs and treat in situ if required. We rescued someone from 8' breaking surf recently where a swimmer would have been unable to extract the casualty but the winchman attached to the wire was able to place a strop and quickly effect a rescue.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 15:12   #10 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Rescue Swimmers are good for persons in the water or trapped underwater, in caves etc but free dropping to swim to a vessel seems utterly pointless.

Winchman can be put in the water, on a deck, on a mountainside, into a building and immediately has control of the casualty and is able to assess their medical needs and treat in situ if required. We rescued someone from 8' breaking surf recently where a swimmer would have been unable to extract the casualty but the winchman attached to the wire was able to place a strop and quickly effect a rescue.
In the prog I watched that triggered the question, that's what happened. Plus they were unhappy winching directly from a yacht due to the mast & rigging, so the swimmer dropped into the water and got the crew to jump in with him for the basket. Seemed as bit odd to me, but as I said, I've no experience at all of such things.
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Old 5th Jan 2010, 15:22   #11 (permalink)
 
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but free dropping to swim to a vessel seems utterly pointless.
Opinions differ on this, crab... a dead-in-the-water sailboat or a shrimper in a significant seaway is a challenging winch target... not to say I disagree with you, but some would (in some contexts I would disagree with you, but not all). I hated winching to sailboats worse than sin, personally, with shrimpers a close second. A free fall to swim to a raft is fairly sound and a most efficient business.

A free fall (by the way our procedures were written when I was active) is only done in daylight and only from 15' or below... the interpretation of which often led to its use in extremely high seas such as Alaska or Hawaii, where the risk of swimmer injury was deemed to be less in a free fall than being lowered on a cable that couldn't possibly keep the feed rate to match the wave motion... the caveat is... the timing has to be just right to hit the crest of the wave or the risk is increased as the swimmer falls in pursuit of the falling sea to pancake in the trough. I suspect that's an unpleasant way to end up in a wheelchair or die.

I think part of the procedural differences between organizations is environmental and specific to historical cases where lives were lost. We seem to go around on this sort of thing on every SAR thread. But, I think that's natural, and probably healthy for debate.

BTW, in USCG parlance, the guy who goes out on the wire is called a rescue swimmer, regardless of what task it is that he's actually doing at the time (which may be confusing), be it on a cable on a cliffside, on a cable into a surfline using a quick strop (which we did indeed steal from the Brits), or winching to a vessel of whatever type to render first aid (all swimmers are EMTs), or swimming to a target in the water. They have a very large and deep bag of tricks indeed, and which ones are used is dependent upon a crew interaction between the cockpit crew, the hoist operator, and the swimmer. The swimmer has veto authority over any decision, as does the PIC.
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 18:40   #12 (permalink)
603
 
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The swimmer has veto authority over any decision, as does the PIC.
Interesting... we always operated that any of the crew could veto (not make) any decision
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 19:16   #13 (permalink)
 
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Evening all..

Great question. Reinforcing Crab's eloquent post -as the Winchman you really dont want to be disconnected from your primary means of rescue; the SAR Aircraft (should the in-water rescue go wrong). And the ability to be 'trawled' throught the water towards your casualty whilst connected to the aircraft, regardless of sea state or weather, is our efficient means of rescue and recovery this side of the pond.

Regarding stropping versus rescue basket method. Having never used the basket method I aint sure. However, the guide books for us dictate that should a casualty be immersed in the water for 'longer than ten minutes or time unknown' the hypothermic lift method using two strops, one over head and under arms with the other placed under the knees, should be utilised. This brings your casualty up to the cab in the semi recumbant position, pooling what warm blood to the poor sod has left pumping around them in their core and not plummeting to their boots. (Sadly as discovered in the Fastnet tragedy many years ago) It is also a very comfortable and reassuring method of rescue and recovery for casualties who are gonna be bricking themselves/injured/near deaths door already. And to do be rescued with your Winchman whilst connected to the winch together can only be an even more reassuring and 'calming' means of recovery rather than being sent upwards by themselves!

Regarding winching to a yacht. Perhaps you need to have a wee look at our Hi-Line method. This is a simple procedure we use ALL the time for winching evolutions to yachts, cluttered fishing vessels, boats with limited/little winching areas, cliff ledges etc. With great effect and, usually, extremely successfully.

Lads/Lassies, wishing you all the safest best wishes in SAR for 2010

Ray
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 19:42   #14 (permalink)
 
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Oh, high-lining is also used in the US, but the weakness there is the person on the other end of the line has to be physically capable of assisting and also know what they're doing, which, as often as not, they do not, which endangers the piece of meat dangling from the hook.

Double-stropping is a great technique, and it's used in the USCG, however, it's time-consuming, and extremely fatiguing with multiple casualties. Every technique has its shortcomings, and most techniques that haven't been discarded out of hand have their merits.

There are so many possible scenarios for which one can argue for one's favorite technique or other that ultimately arguing is pointless (so is having a single favorite technique, for the most part). A rescue from a reasonably stable ship deck necessitates different handling than one from what was initially reported as a vessel in distress that has sunk and therefore isn't there any longer, or from a vessel hard aground in surf. A vessel with a fairly large crew being fully abandoned should probably be handled differently than a single injured casualty in the water, etc. I don't think there's a single technique utilized by the RAF, RN, or any civil SAR organization in the UK that hasn't been evaluated by the standardization branches in the USCG, it's not like this stuff is a big secret or that the information isn't officially and unofficially shared. It is. We always evaluated each individual case on its own merits and adapted accordingly. The type, size, endurance, and other aircraft and environmental characteristics also play a role in technical development and implementation. What works for a Sea King in the Channel won't necessarily work 150nm SW of Adak or for a Dauphin at the end of its endurance operating in blue water.
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Old 7th Jan 2010, 23:53   #15 (permalink)
 
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Why even make the distinction? Why aren't the rescue swimmers trained to ride the hoist down? Use the technique appropriate for the situation. Our PJs use a climbing harness to connect themselves to the end of the hoist and carry a strop down if that's the plan. Granted we don't use a basket, if the survivor isn't capable of riding a strop with a PJ 1 foot away, they get strapped into a stokes litter. Maybe I'm just missing the point of the original poster's question.
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 06:30   #16 (permalink)
 
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Maybe I'm just missing the point of the original poster's question.
Not at all, Bus. It's good to see the opinions of suitably qualified people worldwide, keep the discussion going. My main query was indeed about why USCG swimmers don't rife a hoist down, or indeed why UK crews don't jump. Also, as Um Lifting commented, jumps make good TV and may not represent every occasion.
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 14:41   #17 (permalink)
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Worth bearing in mind that the Fleet Air Arm used to have rescue divers in the days when we had carriers with conventional fixed-wing air craft. When a carrier was launching/recovering there would be a helicopter airborne with a diver ready to deploy.
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 14:57   #18 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Why aren't the rescue swimmers trained to ride the hoist down?
They are, and they do... it just doesn't show up on TV very often. They don't free fall a very high percentage of the time, but if you get all your info from TV, you'd think that's all they do.

Free-falling comes from the fighter aircraft rescue mission, which is still part of the rescue swimmer's bag of tricks. It's still one of the best ways to rapidly approach a small life raft or someone encumbered by a parachute.
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 17:31   #19 (permalink)
 
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Riding the hoist down to the survivor in the water just isn't the easiest way to recover them. Once in the water, the winchman/diver is encumbered by rotor wash, noise, the rescue device (collar, basket, stokes litter or foreest penetrator) and the winch cable while trying to sort out the floundering survivor. It's actually quicker and easier to just jump in from a low pass (10 feet and 10 knots in the USAF) and figure out what to do from there. The helicopter can make a circuit to set up for the hover and the swimmer will be ready to go with the survivor.

It's especially important to get clear of noise and rotor wash if the swimmer(s) needs to wrestle the survivor into a stokes litter. In my experience this was usually only necessary for figher crews with ejection injuries to the neck and back.

Rescuing from a ship deck we would almost always hoist the medic down to make the determination of whether to use the stokes and then hoist them both back up.

Of course all of this was easy for us in the USAF because of the pararescuemen (PJ's) who could do it all: medic, parachutist, aerial gunner, rescue swimmer and overland SAR combat team. Some of them have ego issues that make them a little difficult to work with at times, although most were great. The sign on the door of the PJ office at my first rescue unit read, "The helicopter and its crew are useful tools to assist the PJ in accomplishing the rescue mission."
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Old 8th Jan 2010, 17:40   #20 (permalink)
 
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What Jolly Green said...


Last edited by Um... lifting...; 8th Jan 2010 at 17:52.
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