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SARH to go

Old 29th Jun 2009, 07:43
  #1061 (permalink)  
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I initially put pen to paper because you were asserting things that were incorrect. If the situation isn't complicated, why has it taken everyone, including some of your former senior colleagues, so long to understand it ? It's complicated because there are two main helicopter providers MOD (RAF & RN) and MCA. One military & one civilian. The civilian one is contractor provided. When coming up with some sort of standard working procedures you need to recognise the non-standard background.

I, personally speaking, am quite comfortable with RAF having the majority stake in UKSAR aviation.

I apologise if you think I was being snidey - I thought I was trying to answer your comments in a calm & reasoned manner. However, as peace appears to breaking out, can I very gently try to correct one or two issues in your last reply to me.

I did say that both roles were equally interesting & challenging. They are undoubtedly different. I didn't say that one or the other was superior.

I did make a claim about "joined up UKSAR response" i.e. not "UKSAR" and there lies the difference. While I admire your personal contribution to SAR aviation, your obvious pride in your own organisation has to be balanced against what occasionally appears to be a negative view of your partners in UKSAR. I've gone out of my to promote other authorities, including your own, even when in my humble opinion, they were behaving rather badly.

I've twice led posts stating my admiration for you chaps at the front end & although I would enjoy the opportunity of seeing your work at first hand on a dark & stormy night my age, increasing waistline and your own 2 Group (??) procedures would probably exclude me. I am, however, familiar with the concept of a dark & stormy night having bobbed around the seven seas on a variety of tubs in the past and, believe me, the waves look even bigger when you're down in among them.

As regards units being withdrawn from a search, I wasn't having a go at the ARCC who have a very difficult job to do and for whom I have the utmost respect. I also consider many of the staff there, past & present, as personal friends. They will be looking at all sorts of factors including crew fatigue, previous jobs, potential jobs, aircraft hours, serviceability - all areas you are familiar with. The MRCC will be looking at it from their perspective. Occasionally & it happens more frequently than you would assume, the ARCC & the MRCC may agree to differ. I did say that wasn't a problem. I was merely using the scenario to demonstrate who had OpCon.

I also didn't imply the comms problem was the fault of the ARCC. Clever Richard asked whether "prior to the intro of the S92, did the MCA tell the ARCC, the tasking authority, that they were not fitting HF ?" I replied "Yes. Some folks were not listening though". The relevant meeting took place in 2005. SARF were represented. I queried the decision because I felt that a combination of HF & Satcom gave a more flexible solution i.e. security of Satcom alongside the broadcast facility of HF. That was, and is, my personal view - looking at it from a SAR coordinators viewpoint. However, I am but a humble foot soldier, & Satcom it was. IPT decision, I believe. Slipping into rumour mode - there is an interesting story behind this & one you may not be entirely comfortable with. Back to reality - SARF later claimed that they were first made aware at the 2006 Conference which is incorrect but that particular myth has grown legs. In any case, both events preceded the introduction of the first S92 at Stornoway in 2007.

On the issue of equipment being brought into service without being fully tried & tested, well I can only point you in the same direction that other contributors to this forum have suggested in the past. Who is immune ? I understand that the MOD have some previous (and current) here.

Job done & hopefully slipping back into obscurity before I get into hot water ...........
Bluenose 50 is offline  
Old 29th Jun 2009, 08:52
  #1062 (permalink)  
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Bluenose 50,

An interesting post. I find it strange that the RAF claim that they were not informed about the lack of HF on the interim S-92 if it was stated at a meeting with an RAF rep(presumably it was minuted).

It was mentioned previously that the sat-tracker on the S-92 can be accessed over the internet. As a mission critical system, do you know if the MCA has a dedicated comms set-up for handling this data as I would be worried if they left themselves at the mercy of the vagaries of the internet.

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Old 29th Jun 2009, 09:48
  #1063 (permalink)  
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Bluenose 50 - while we are gently clarifying points - bringing equipment into service without it being tried and tested (which everyone has to do at some point) is one thing and bringing equipment into service that isn't compatible with current capability, is quite another.

If you weren't referring to the RAF/ARCCK when you said 'some folks weren't listening though' who were you pointing the finger at regarding Satcom and HF on the 92?

I'm not sure why you would draw a line between 'joined up UKSAR response' and 'UKSAR' but I would be interested to know which authorities you thought were behaving rather badly.

Despite your scenarios - it still seems to me that, unless you want to split hairs to satisfy whose turf is whose, the RAF effectively does have OpCon over all the SAR helos.

As it happens, I do have a great deal of respect for all our partners in UKSAR but that won't prevent me from saying when I think something could be done better - and that goes for RAFSAR as well. is offline  
Old 29th Jun 2009, 14:42
  #1064 (permalink)  
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RAF effectively does have OpCon over all the SAR helos.

Long been an admirer of yours considering the flack that comes your way but you handle it so well, but on the above I suggest your wrong.

The 4 CG operation rooms who have S92 and AW139 have complete operational control over their repective a/c out to a radius distance of 30nm from their respective helo bases. We attempt to keep ARCCK informed but depending on how busy the control room is, will on occasions impart a delay in passing this information.

ARCCK has on occasions requested an AW139 from Lee-on-Solent or Portland to be turned down by the SMC (SAR Mission Co-ordinator) who has the bigger picture as to what is happening in his/her area at any given time.

Given these 2 accurate senarios the RAF cannot have OpCon over all SAR helo's.

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Old 29th Jun 2009, 15:14
  #1065 (permalink)  
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Sapper, Bluenose - I must admit defeat on this one having just talked to the ARCCK - the RAF does not have full Opcon at the moment, perhaps it was voiced as an aspiration by some of my senior commanders but I took it as fact

However, I believe there is a Memorandum Of Understanding in the pipeline to correct this which has the full support of the Chief CG and will give full Opcon to the RAF/ARCCK in the near future. is offline  
Old 29th Jun 2009, 18:23
  #1066 (permalink)  
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Perhaps the term you are looking for is 'Tacon'. This is the common sense practice of handing over short term control of an asset for a specific task.

I stand by to be corrected by a more knowledgeable doctrine guru.

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Old 30th Jun 2009, 13:54
  #1067 (permalink)  
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<(_8(!) = Dumb Homer


Thanks for your reply.

For those who wonder what the relevance is, my understanding (and if anyone knows better, please chip in):

If, for reasons best known to myself, I decide to throw several tons of helicopter into the water in the East Shetland basin on a foggy day, and scatter my passengers with dumb beacons across several acres, a Civvy SAR machine will turn up and locate us one by one and take us home for tea.

If I choose to repeat the experiment a couple of hundred miles South, a military machine will appear and, despite the availability of rear-facing radar and NVGs, will be unable to find any of us due to the inability to discriminate between multiple transmissions.

The AAIB are hinting that they think this might not be a good idea:
It is recommended that the Civil Aviation Authority review the carriage and use in commercial air transport helicopters of any radio location devices which do not form part of the aircraft’s certificated equipment.
(AAIB Special report into G-REDU)

UK Oil and Gas, however think that:
There is no need for the CAA to conduct a further review of this matter
(press release 26th June)

Tractor_Driver is offline  
Old 30th Jun 2009, 18:54
  #1068 (permalink)  
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PARIS 2009: AirKnight opens the SAR-H door | Shephard Group

snippet from Paris = MPC optional?

PARIS 2009: AirKnight opens the SAR-H door
June 16, 2009
The sealed door closing off the UK's SAR-H procurement programme from prying eyes was left slightly ajar after the AirKnight consortium made its first 'official' public statements about the bid.
The consortium, led by Lockheed Martin with partners VT and British International Helicopters (BIH) used the Paris Air Show to reveal it had submitted its final technical solution to the joint Ministry of Defence and Department for Transport project team and to talk about their choice of helicopter, the EC225, but the company did not let on about the form their solution would take.
Bid director, Tom Gordon was however keen to point out that the consortia had the formidable financing might of Lockheed Martin behind it while partners VT and BIH had already had long experience in the provision of Public Finance Initiatives.
Under current SAR-H plans, the new helicopters would be introduced from 2012 with the entire SAR-H enterprise fully operational by 2017, with the contract due to end in 2037. Potentially the contract could last as long as 32 years including the phase out period after 2037. Among the SAR-H contract demands is that the bidders retain use of the 12 SAR bases around the UK while the Falklands base is 'optional'.
Although it is understood that both bidders have included the Falklands in their plans.
Mr Gordon told that the consortia had used computer models to find the best model for the bid, and had drawn in experience from SAR operators, while the consortia bid team had evaluated a number of different aircraft, but the 225, was 'an unrivalled offering' he said.
AirKnight says it is continuing to advance its proposals in preparation for the final financial and commercial proposals, which are due later in the year.
A final decision from the SAR-H team is expected towards the end of 2009.
By Tony Osborne - Editorial Team, Paris
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Old 30th Jun 2009, 21:54
  #1069 (permalink)  
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Tractor Driver - I'm not sure the civvy SAR kit is quite as capable as that. 16 beacons going off at once is going to cause problems for anyone and, chances are, if it is a survivable crash, you will all be close by the aircraft or already in dinghies so location would probably be done visually not electronically.

If we were conducting an IMC homing to multiple contacts, we would still be able to let down to the area since we would get an electronic overhead of some sort. Thereafter, as every survivor is brought into the aircraft, his beacon is switched off/destroyed leaving us clear to find the others.

I think the oil and gas industry likes individual beacons simply because they give its customers a warm and fuzzy feeling that they won't be forgotten. is offline  
Old 30th Jun 2009, 23:37
  #1070 (permalink)  
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Tractor Driver

Having used both types of homer (Sea King and the vastly superior Griffin system), I can assure you that even newer systems will not differentiate between (up to) 21 different beacons. You will home towards the majority and then have to use a variety of different techniques to separate the signals if they are in that 'difficult' scenario of being, up to, a few miles apart.
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Old 1st Jul 2009, 10:15
  #1071 (permalink)  
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Crab, Detgnome,


I totally agree with Crab's last point, that the Oil Companies are more concerned with box ticking and fuzzy feelings than real safety.

Never having used either generation of homer, I will hapily take the experts' advice, but if even the best cannot discriminate between a helicopter load worth of beacons, isn't all the more reason to opose the current plan to remove the existing smart beacons and re-issue dumb ones to all?

From the AAIB report:

Following the arrival of the first SAR helicopter in the vicinity of the ETAP platform, 27 minutes elapsed before the occupied liferafts were identified approximately 400 m from the platform. The search was hampered by the darkness, fog and the weakness/absence of homing signals on the emergency frequencies 121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz, although survival equipment designed to transmit on both these frequencies had been activated by the crew. The liferafts were finally located by a combination of aircraft weather radar, visual guidance from personnel on the ETAP platform and a weak signal on 121.5 MHz.
Next time, there might not be an audience shouting "look behind you!"

Tractor_Driver is offline  
Old 1st Jul 2009, 10:15
  #1072 (permalink)  
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While the sat tracking system is internet fed, it's not the only means there is of tracking the aircraft.
They are also fitted with AIS, which does not give as much info, but has a faster update speed on position.
Even then the decision has been made to keep regular VHF "ops normals" with the aircraft as well.

ARCC does use the sat tracking system as far as I know. Certainly I've heard of them chasing the MRCC for an update because they've noticed the aircraft's up before the MRCC have had a chance to call them.
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Old 2nd Jul 2009, 09:09
  #1073 (permalink)  
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Tractor Driver - after reading the AAIB report, it seems clear that the real problem is the approved beacons (Tech Test 500-12Y) because they are having their signals suppressed by the WWPLBs (wristwatch beacons).

The WWPLBs perform a double function in that they give a Man Overboard (MOB) alert to the rigs in case anyone falls off as well as providing homing to an individual who may have got separated from the other pax during an aircraft ditching/crash. To that end I would not get rid of them.

I would rather replace the crew and liferaft ELT/PLBs with ones that aren't suppressed so you can always find them. Whilst I understand the theory that having fewer beacons transmitting should help the rescuers, in the case of G-REDU it hindered them instead.

It should have been a straightforward job to home to the beacons on the liferafts, especially as these should have been the strongest signal - but the suppression technology made it far more difficult.

In short, I see no reason to review the WWPLBs and every reason to review the aircraft equipment. is offline  
Old 2nd Jul 2009, 15:20
  #1074 (permalink)  
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I have to disagree with you there.

MOB alert. Middle of Oggin. Low power beacon. Most suitable distress frequency? 121.5 to alert Crabs 100 miles away or 156.8 to alert SBV 1/2 mile away?

Ditching scenario:

Foggy day. Full helicopter, 21 souls. Ditches, all survive. Some make it to rafts; some end up in water.

Our heros arrive to find 3 strong signals (2 rafts, 1 ADELT) 2 medium strength (2 crew) and 10 weak ones (WWPLBs).

As I said above, I am no expert, but I believe that this would be more of a problem than arriving to find 1 strong signal (first of Raft or ADELT to activate), finding that one, deactivating it then moving on to the next one to squawk.

The second version relies on retaining existing equiped smart beacons, and replacing dumb PLBs with smart ones. The technology exists, it would just take a little money. Oil is back over $70 / barrel (in real terms that is higher than all but a few months over the last 25 years) so probably about 10 minutes worth of proffit need to be invested.

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Old 2nd Jul 2009, 17:52
  #1075 (permalink)  
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Tractor Driver - 121.5 won't alert anyone any more, the COSPAS/SARSAT monitoring of that and 243.0 has finished so the answer is either your 156.8 alert to the SBV or a personal 406Mhz beacon.

As to the second scenario - if I pitched up on scene and only had the one strong signal (whether from the raft or ADELT) I would have to go there first but the chances that anyone is still with the aircraft are slim and if there are people in the rafts, they are at least safe from the environment. If the crew are in the rafts they probably wouldn't activate their beacons, if they are in the water they would but these would be supressed by the raft/ADELT. Any pax with WWPLBs in the rafts might suppress the ELTs and give a poor homing signal and any who are in the water drifting away would be very low down the pecking order if they had smart beacons.

In terms of rescuing priority it has to be the guys in the water with the WWPLBs since they are pax and have the least training compared to the crew and probably inferior safety equipment. If you give them smart PLBS they could be suppressed by all the others and you wouldn't know they were there until you had got the guys from the rafts (who are in less danger) out first.

The potential confusion with multiple beacons at least gives you an idea of what you are faced with ie possibly 21 pax in the water whereas one strong signal might give you an easier homing but far less information about how you need to proceed.

The aircraft beacon should be 406 and it should have encoded GPS so homing is almost unneccessary (they transmit every 50 secs or so) - the crew should be similarly equipped.

Even if it is foggy, we have more than just homers to find pax in the water - the FLIR will help and at night, so will NVG since most lifejackets have a light on which will stand out like a dog's whatsits on goggles.

Overall, since the priority must be to rescue pax from the water before pax from a raft, you must select a system that doesn't mask their individual signals if you want to give them the best chance.

It would probably take nearly an hour to winch 21 people out of the water, especially at night in fog, even if some of them are in rafts and the winchman would be knackered by the time you got halfway through. Any further searching for those who might have continued to drift away whilst you rescued the raftees first would mean longer exposure times and decreased chances of survival. is offline  
Old 2nd Jul 2009, 21:50
  #1076 (permalink)  
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Perhaps I can give a perspective from the oil operators side of things.

They have to commit to an ability to rescue a helicopter load from at least the 500m zone around the installations.

So circa 20 people. They have to be retrieved within 2 hours (beyond that survival is questionable). Now given the Jigsaw project - no local standby vessels and a scenario where people are dispersed in the water, the only way to retrieve them within that time period is to have WWPLBs on every person.

This incident shows the whole process was not well thought though. Inspite of conditions being reasonably good (apart from visibility) the first recovery occured over 1 hour after the ditching. As everyone was in the rafts, no real problem apart from hypothermia affecting a few survivors. The ARRC (surface rescue craft) arrived just within the 2 hour period and the BP management could announce a success for Jigsaw.

Now we know that given intelligent beacons it cannot work. Given 'dumb' beacons the original Jigsaw trials are probably OK. So long as everyone practises regularly - because reputedly it took a lot of practice for the trials crew to meet that performance standard - 20 people within 2 hours, dispersed at sea, to be winched to safety.

But in real terms the people who need a priority rescue have the PLBs with the weakest signals. Until the strong signals are eliminated then their recovery is unlikely to be possible.

And all this ignores the issues about the aircrew not knowing how to operate the ELT!!!!
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Old 13th Jul 2009, 21:29
  #1077 (permalink)  
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Hearing there are some words between the various players in SAR-H about what colour to paint the chosen aircraft - Black and Orange, a la Project Jigsaw is the favourite, but the RAF want to retain Yellow etc...
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Old 13th Jul 2009, 22:00
  #1078 (permalink)  
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This will almost certainly be the most contentious issue - what colour? Given that it is an IPT what will we end up - a combination of all of the current schemes? Anyone interested in starting a new thread with their photoshopped versions of possible ac and colour schemes?
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Old 14th Jul 2009, 07:48
  #1079 (permalink)  
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I gues it depends on what mesage they are trying to send - as many have pointed out here before, no-one cares what colour the helicopter that comes to rescue you is.

If they want a new corporate image then a new colour is appropriate - if they want a link with the past then since the majority of UK SAR helicopters are yellow then that should be retained.

I'm not convinced that linking the SARForce to Jigsaw by dint of the same colour scheme sends any sort of good message at all. is offline  
Old 14th Jul 2009, 09:35
  #1080 (permalink)  
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My understanding is that this matter was resolved by the IPT some time ago and the aircraft will be as the same colour scheme as the MCA aircraft are at present.
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