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Helicopter rescue feasibility

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Helicopter rescue feasibility

Old 16th Jun 2017, 11:28
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Helicopter rescue feasibility

Watching the awful events at the tower block in London got me thinking. Could there not be a capability for helicopter based rescue in such circumstances?

Coast Guard (and previously RAF/FAA SAR) operate winch equipped helicopters that are designed with equipment to lift people and casualties.
I was wondering if this was something that was ever trained for, or are the winches capable of operating this close to a structure?

Or was it never considered a useful capability, considering the rarity of this type of tragedy?

Do other countries/services have this sort of capability?
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Old 16th Jun 2017, 11:40
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While in no way any sort of expert, I would imagine that the smoke, flames and heat rising up would preclude any hovering over/near the structure.
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Old 16th Jun 2017, 15:17
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That's an interesting question that might be better off posed at Rotorheads forum. Plenty of experienced helicopter hands there to present pros and cons of your idea.

Kensington fires is already running in Rotorheads

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Old 16th Jun 2017, 15:30
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I remember the same questions were asked after 9/11.
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Old 16th Jun 2017, 16:32
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It is possible, as demonstrated by the Hong Kong Government Flying Service (Formally the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force) in the 90's when one of the tower Blocks on Nathan Road caught fire during refurbishment. There were people in offices at the top who were lifted of the roof. But it was daylight and nowhere near the inferno seen in London. A very brave act though with the smoke etc and the need to put the winchman onto the roof!
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Old 16th Jun 2017, 18:15
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Remember the helo rescues from the Sir Galahad in the Falklands, so yes, it is perfectly possible.
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Old 16th Jun 2017, 18:35
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Los Angeles used to have a Fire Safety Code that required flat roofs and often times....helidecks on tops of buildings.

Yes fire, flames, heat, smoke, and debris in the air can prevent rescues.

But....in a lot of cases rescues could be made by Helicopter.

In Los Angeles, with the size of the Police and Fire Departments helicopter fleets and other helicopters it was a very viable concept.

They are beginning to re-think the flat roof concept.

If there is no infrastructure built into the Building Roof Top.....then for sure the probability of a successful rescue are reduced.

In high rise buildings....sometimes going down is not an option and jumping would be fatal....thus that means the only other Option might be to go up to the roof and pray Rescue Helicopters can get to you.
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Old 17th Jun 2017, 03:16
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Its been done. 1980 MGM Grand Hotel fire in Nevada, more than 1,000 people were taken from the roof of the hotel by military helicopters.

Maybe L.A.'s 'stupid' helipad rule wasn't so dumb - LA Times
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Old 17th Jun 2017, 15:05
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Excellent question. Not claiming any rotary expertise but surely, if not, why not? The RAF and RHKAAF routinely trained on tall buildings in Hong Kong. With no ladder rescue option above 30 or so metres, I'd say this was something that ought to be being closely examined
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Old 17th Jun 2017, 17:17
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I'd forgotten the 1980 MGM grand case, well done megan. (Also some good points being made in the Rotorheads thread that got opened by Hompy. )
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Old 17th Jun 2017, 18:21
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And it would be an excellent capability to have and be able to train our wonderful SAR force for ............... Oh hang on a minute
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Old 17th Jun 2017, 19:16
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Originally Posted by Davef68 View Post
I remember the same questions were asked after 9/11.
IIRC, on 9/11 the authorities quickly closed all airspace to civilian traffic - even the news choppers needed to land ASAP - making rooftop rescue a moot point. Unless they could have gotten military choppers there quickly those poor souls on the upper floors were doomed as soon as they closed the airspace (and off hand I can't think of any military airbases close to Manhattan).
In the case of the Vegas MGM, there is a large military airbase just north of town...
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Old 17th Jun 2017, 23:32
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Japan uses helicopters for aerial building firefighting as well as rescue..
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Old 18th Jun 2017, 00:27
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There were significant numbers of NY police and fire helicopters flying long after the call to ground aircraft. There were civilian aircraft flying as well. Two air ambulance missions that I know of, sure others as well. Just the same, many mil aircraft were grounded/diverted due to it.
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Old 18th Jun 2017, 05:14
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In at least one of the towers on 9-11 many occupants attempted to get to the
roof for a possible helicopter retrieval.

However the emergency exits leading to the roof were locked, a real tragedy.
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Old 18th Jun 2017, 06:00
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roof access locked

It seems would-be helo rescue forces need to be able to land someone on the roof equipped to open the door with small explosives if need be.
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Old 20th Jun 2017, 15:48
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However the emergency exits leading to the roof were locked, a real tragedy
After the 1993 WTC bombing, in which a number of people were lifted off the roof, it was decided that helicopter rescue was not appropriate for large incidents, hence the reason why the doors were locked eight years later. I don't have the source material in front of me so I can't check why that decision was made.

Unless they could have gotten military choppers there quickly those poor souls on the upper floors were doomed as soon as they closed the airspace
That's not actually true - in one of the towers (South Tower I think) one of the staircases remained usable until the building fell, but in the confusion, only a very few people above the impact zone found it and made their escape. The rest stayed put or headed to the roof.

For the Grenfell Tower fire, the combination of darkness and smoke would make it very tricky to carry out a helicopter rescue. Some years back, a Wattisham-based Sea King did successfully winch people from the roof of a (much smaller) block of flats which had caught fire, but that was in daylight and the fire was contained on one floor. The RAF News carried the story on the front page, under the headline 'Towering Inferno', complete with picture of Sea King hovering above the roof with smoke-stained windows a few floors down - but hardly comparable to the recent tragedy.
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