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-   -   SAR: Search & Rescue Ops [Archive Copy] (https://www.pprune.org/rotorheads/229516-sar-search-rescue-ops-archive-copy.html)

AllyPally 27th May 2000 13:15

SAR: Search & Rescue Ops [Archive Copy]
BP Amoco has announced it is looking at basing 4 Super Puma helicopters offshore as SAR cover to replace standby boats. 2 Pumas will also be based onshore. Where are they going to get the approx 24 crews from to give 24hr 365 a day cover? Is the Puma the right helio? Is there a 4 axis coupled auto hover/letdown version of the Puma. The Puma is French therefore rotors go the wrong way round hence winch is on the wrong side and exacerbates the right wing low hover when loaded. I would be surprised if the RAF has more than 26 operational SAR crews at the moment so the problem is huge. The average N Sea pilot with no SAR or Pinger service would find it a difficult transition to night hovering in still wind on a black night. So experienced crews should be able to hold out for big pay packets if this goes ahead 75,000+ plus offshore allowance of at least 100 per night etc.

john d'pruyting 27th May 2000 15:36

Dream on.
Your estimate of numbers might be right, but the average north sea pilot spends plenty of time landing on small support vessels during wintery shitty nights. They will still be the first choice.

AllyPally 27th May 2000 16:02

You miss the point. Hovering with a visual reference is relatively easy be it day or night. Hovering at night in still wind with the rotor downwash "appearing " to give the impression that you are moving back and left because it is blowing away from you can be very disorienting. Until you have done it in foggy conditions with no normal hover references and the doppler having unlocked because it cannot resolve all the different vectors thrown up by the downwash you haven't lived!! This is what the oil companies will expect you to do if they get rid of the standby boats.

Ack2Main 27th May 2000 19:55


I think you have missed the point.

Where do youi think the companies will select their crews from? Anyone who is willing to take the job on is the answer. I agree there is not enough ex mil people around but the hovering is a bit of a easy thing to pick up, otherwise how would crab pilots be able to cope. As for the wages then you are on something if you think they will pay any more than the going rates at the moment for offshore pilots.

Cyclic Hotline 28th May 2000 11:17

Rather strange to surmise that this mission would be beyond the scope of the existing commercial operators, who have performed this function for DECADES with a variety of types, both onshore and offshore based.

These missions are flown by a mixture of ex-military and civilian pilots, by training for the particular mission, with the equipment to be utilised. SAR missions are performed worldwide, by a variety of commercial and military operators and are simply not the domain of any particular operating entity.

The number of military crews is not the issue, as the contract will be placed with a commercial operator, with the ability to provide trained crews, role-equipped aircraft and the desired availability.

The average North Sea pilot has an extensive background in a multitude of operating environments and missions. With the number of current and past SAR operations, former military aircrew and continuing training, commercial operators are able to meet any contractural requirement. Recent lay-offs in the industry provide for an (unfortunately) extensive pool of extremely competent and skilled pilots waiting in the wings. This is the bread and butter of the commercial helicopter business, meeting contractural requirements with innovation and excellence. If someone has the need and the money to pay for the requirement, commercial operators will provide the service.

If the contract requirement specifies the Super Puma, the aircraft is available from the factory configured for automated SAR operations, a number of these aircraft are already performing this task. This will additionally ensure competitive bidding, as no single operator will be able to dominate the market.

Do not confuse the Super Puma (AS332L) with the Puma (AS330J), the two types are totally different in virtually every aspect of performance and capability. The Super Puma offers significant performance increases over the 330J, or the S61N, for SAR operations, particularly for diversionary single engine operations from an offshore base of operations.

This would be a great opportunity to expand operations for the commercial operators, but would essentially be an expansion of their existing operations. Consequently, there would probably be no shortage of crews ready to work a nice long term 14/14 schedule, with the ability to live where they wish.

Aerospit 28th May 2000 15:35

Getting pilots for this contract won't be the problem, nor will getting the aircraft. The biggest problem is where the suitably qualified winch operators and winchmen will come from!

There are few in the civilian world who are not already employed in SAR or other crewmen duties. I suspect that those in the military who would like to go for the job would not be released quickly enough to fill the posts.

Does this then mean that whoever wins the contract must train their own guys from scratch? What company has a training machine in place to do that? I suspect not even Bristow who operate four SAR units, let alone Scotia who employ few crewmen anyway.

The RAF operates a SAR Training Unit at Valley and have had contracts to train civilians in the past, so perhaps that is the way to go. However, even that will take time. There will have to be a long lead-in time built in to whoever wins this contract to ensure that the training can be done (plus the medical training that will be required as the contract also requires a paramedic - which can be done by suitably qualified rearcrew)

As an aside to the comment about "crab" pilots and night hovering, this person obviously has not seen an RAF rescue Sea King which has the same if not better auto-hover capability (depending whether it be a Mk 3 or a Mk 3A) than the Navy aircraft. They are as good as their Nay counterparts! At least the "crabs" have a professional SAR school unlike the "wafu's" who have none and have even cut back their SAR commitments!

Angry Palm Tree 28th May 2000 20:10

I think Ally Pally may have missed the point! How often do we get still nights on the north sea?! They tend to happen more often in the summer and funnily enough it stays lighter for longer then!
p.s. Even with the technology available for the Wessex 3, we din't have too many problems establishing a doppler hover in light airs, the downwash actually came in handy to give the doppler something to look at!

Ack2Main 28th May 2000 20:24

Glad to see the crab comment got a bite.

U R NumberOne 29th May 2000 17:38

Couple of questions on this subject...

First of all will the contract be an open tender or an extension of BHL's SAR operations (different agency I know, but could be connected?). Secondly does anyone have an idea about how much flying may be undertaken outside the normal operating hours of Aberdeen ATC - both airport and offshore tasks? And when offshore, to what extent would air traffic services be required?

There could be some interesting times ahead for us when this service starts.

SARcastic 30th May 2000 01:55

Where has Allypally been for the last decade or so ? All this claptrap about night hovering, nil wind, no references, fog etc - does he really think anyone does that sort thing these days !! Since the early eighties the contract Coastguard S61N's have been equipped with a rather cute SAR package, with - yes you guessed it - a four axis fully coupled all singing and hovering autopilot, and the computer does not care whether it's day or night. Anyone trying a manual hover at night over the ogin in poor conditions, seriously needs treatment ! :rolleyes:
The technology and the expertise is available to make this proposition work, my only doubt is where the Winchops/men are coming from ? as Aerospit has already noted.
Oh ! by the way, I was in a foggy, night, maritime hover when I wrote this - FULLY COUPLED of course.

212man 30th May 2000 03:07

Interesting news indeed, that poses a few quandries for those awarding contracts.

Who flies the commercial routes for BP/Amoco nowadays? Bond/Scotia.

Who has a less than enviable track record in Ireland with SAR? Bond/Scotia (advertising for winch ops by the way)

Who has a fine and long standing reputation with civil SAR? BHL.

Who (possibly!) has a surplus of AS332s and could be in a position to rapidly take on this contract? BHL.

I wouldn't like to bet on it but.....

To add to the above debate on heroic seat of the pants, "when I was a Wessex pinger" type remarks; I think that nice Mr Newmark, in hand with Monsieur SFIM, may assist in some capacity to prevent those inexperienced North Sea civvie types from hitting the wet stuff.

Another day in paradise

[This message has been edited by 212man (edited 29 May 2000).]

2R 2nd Jun 2000 08:39

Is that correct?replacing standby boats.
Does anyone remember the Piper Alpha.The standby boats and crew rescued a lot of men from an area that no helicopter could have got near.
Adding additional safety by having improved rapid response SAR capabilities would probably reduce insurance cost's.
I don't think I would want to be offshore without those fishermen in the boats.Try getting a heli started in some of those winds,sixty mile an hour fog.

2R 2nd Jun 2000 08:44

Is that correct?replacing standby boats.
Does anyone remember the Piper Alpha.The standby boats and crew rescued a lot of men from an area that no helicopter could have got near.
Adding additional safety by having improved rapid response SAR capabilities would probably reduce insurance cost's.
I don't think I would want to be offshore without those fishermen in the boats.Try getting a heli started in some of those winds,sixty mile an hour fog.
I did work on the Piper alpha once,Hard to forget,I hope it never happens again.The standby boats saved life's.

PiLoco 2nd Jun 2000 10:30

Dumb question, forgive me for asking (totally new here)...are they lookin' for pilots in that neck of the woods?

I was flying JetRangers, then somehow wound up flying for a commuter airline. Oh, I miss rotary. FAA by the way, just American trash, so maybe the Euro set wouldn't hire me.

Just thought I'd offer the query and see if there's any wisdom out there on it.

Many thanks.

distings 3rd Jun 2000 02:57

Should not be a problem. Most of the rescue boats are manned by Spanish or Philappinos(how do you spell that?), so what's the problem of a bit of transfer of labour.
I guess that's why the unions are being a bit mute at this point on what would be a huge jobs issue on the boats in the UK.
Funny that, they've just realised that nearly everyone on a rescue boat is from abroad.

Cyclic Hotline 3rd Jun 2000 06:20

From the content of this thread, it appears that ther may be a perceived problem recruiting adequate winch crews. The obvious solution would be to find some good location and set up a training school to produce the personnel required.

Whilst perusing elsewhere on PPRuNe, I stumbled on the perfect location, Manston, Kent. Good location, excellent facilities and training areas abound, (including the all important glassy water, foggy conditions) and it will soon be a major airport again.

The next problem is finding a suitable helicopter to perform the SAR training role, needs to be large enough to hold the winch crew and also large enough to provide meaningful aircrew training for the mission. It would also be ideal if the aircraft had none of those fancy gadgets, so a little training is given in elementary skills in this operating environment. Of course, finally it needs to be cost effective.

I don't know if there might be any old WS55 Whirlwinds knocking around, but that would be the perfect aircraft for this role.

Brilliant solution, Whirlwind's at Manston, it's a wonder no-one ever thought of it before! :)

Perhaps those Phillipino's might be interested in the job?

I sense an Empire in creation!!!!! ;)

Multp 3rd Jun 2000 23:30

No, Whirlwinds (love 'em) a bit old-hat. How about Bell 412, which is, by coincidence, an ideal machine for the Coastguard to operate from this location for Channel ops? On the other hand, why not send your baby crewmen to Valley and get them trained by SARTU/DHFS. The RAF and the DHFS Contractor might well be grateful for the business, though they might need to buy some more machines.

Wish I worked for BHT!

semirigid rotor 5th Jun 2000 15:01

This may be closer to reality than we all think. BP Amoco have been working on this for 18 months. All that is left to do is sell the idea to the work force. With standby boats costing 5k a day there are some big savings to be made. As for crews, some additional training will be needed but Valley have done that in the past - for a fee! nice little earner for the military. The question is, how many helio's and therefore how many crews working what kind of rota offshore? Lots of duty time but not much flying. It will be interesting to see what excemptions the CAA will give to FTL! ;)

Houdini 6th Jun 2000 00:25

I find the whole thing rather amusing. It seems fairly obvious that many of you have little or no knowledge of the way the off shore industry works.

Cost is the overriding factor, not quality of service. Some accountant in BP is on a big bonus to come up with more ways of saving money. They award the contract to the lowest bidder and the operators fall over themselves to do it for next to nothing. When the contract is awarded the Oil Company then gives the contractor a hard time if things don't go too well. The crewing is sorted out as you go along, generally using the least experienced co-pilots available and scraping around for Captains. The training will be minimal to save cost, and yes the CAA will do anything that anyone asks and then criticizes the crew paper work.

The pilots get as little in pay and allowances as the operator can get away with until they get fed up and leave and then we just draft someone else in. Meanwhile the clever accountant goes off to spend the money the crews should have had. Sounds cynical I know but its damn close to the truth.

2STROPS 6th Jun 2000 01:48

SARcastic seems to be dangerously unaware of the dangers of night hovering. Autohover and height hold are very good but not infallible. A good friend of mine was nearly drowned in a FULLY COUPLED fully serviceable Coastguard S61N which ditched, I believe, due to loss of spatial awareness at night. He was washed into the tail and only managed to get out when the rear escape door was opened from the outside. AllyPally is right, you have to have the skill to fly the aircraft when the automatics fail/throw a wobbly. Writing notes in the Autohover is not a good idea unless you are totally unaware of what can go wrong.

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