Alexandria, VA, December 12, 2007- HAI is proud to announce this year’s Eurocopter Golden Hour Award recipients, United States Coast Guard HH-65C Crew 6548; San Francisco, California. On the night of August 5th, 2007, Sector San Francisco notified Air Station San Francisco that the sailing vessel, Cherokee Rose was taking on water approximately 30 miles off Gualala, California. Fifteen-foot seas and 25-knot winds were slamming the sailing vessel. The ship’s crew had abandoned ship, was in a life raft, and was no longer in contact with anyone. The Operations Center sounded the Search and Rescue alarm and the alert duty crew, consisting of Aircraft Commander, Lieutenant Robert F. Fitzgerald, First Officer, Lieutenant Derrick S. Greer, Aviation Maintenance Technician 2nd Class (AMT2) Brian Patrick (flight mechanic), and Survival Technician 3rd Class (AST3) Dan Strange (rescue swimmer), who were sleeping, quickly reported to the Operations Center to begin flight planning. Unfamiliar with the vessel’s last known location, LT Fitzgerald plotted the coordinates. The two pilots agreed that the flight would be flown under Instrument Flight Rules.
After flying 120 miles through a thick fog layer while flying 200 feet enroute, CGNR 6548 arrived at the ship’s last known location. The aircrew estimated a drift track based on the winds, scrapped the ordered search, and began tracking a faint emergency locator beacon that AMT2 Patrick heard. They flew in extremely low visibility for two miles, without any terrestrial lights or discernible horizon, in a direct line following the wind direction, until they spotted a faint strobe light nine miles outside of the original search area. The crew turned on the searchlight. LT Fitzgerald called out that he had survivors in sight.
LT Fitzgerald positioned the aircraft downwind of the survivors and deployed AST3 Dan Strange, into the dark, 50-degree water, surrounded by chaotic 15-foot white-capped seas. LT Greer manned the radios, reporting the location of the survivors to Sector San Francisco. AST3 Strange made sure no one was injured. He loaded two of the survivors into the rescue basket. AMT2 Patrick — battling gusty winds — skillfully positioned the hoist for a smooth recovery. About this time a 47-foot Coast Guard motor lifeboat arrived and was vectored by LT Greer to the two remaining survivors. The entire mission from alert to aircraft shutdown was 5 hours, 21 minutes. Four lives were saved and $250,000 worth of property recovered. Mission accomplished.
All winners will be recognized at HELI-EXPO 2008’s annual “Salute to Excellence” Awards Banquet on February 25, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. in Houston Texas. For more information about the 2008 “Salute to Excellence” Awards Banquet, contact HAI’s Communications Department at 703-683-4646, fax: 703-683-4745, or email: [email protected]. For more information on HELI-EXPO 2008, visit www.heliexpo.com.
HAI is the professional trade association serving the international helicopter community. HAI’s 1,500-plus-member organizations and 900 individual members, in more than 74 nations, safely operate more than 5,000 helicopters approximately 2.3 million hours each year. HAI is dedicated to the promotion of the helicopter as a safe, effective method of commerce and to the advancement of the international helicopter community.