Highlights from Helitech International 2016: Delivering a commercial search and rescue service to the Falkland Islands – SAR

Highlights from Helitech International 2016:  Delivering a commercial search and rescue service to the Falkland Islands – SAR

Recognised as an industry first, AAR Airlift Group is working with British International Helicopters and Air Rescue Systems to conduct Search and Rescue (SAR) operations for the UK Ministry of Defence in the Falkland Islands.

Earlier this year at Helitech International 2016, we were given an in-depth explanation of how SAR is being conducted, and a foundation of the technical and regulatory means by which a commercial operator may perform these functions.

Alistair Riches, Commercial Director, British International Helicopters, explained:

The basis of civil aviation SAR is derived from adherence to the UN conventions on the laws of the sea, the safety of life at sea and international civil aviation.

AW189 is the helicopter of choice used for SAR missions, due to its capable and effective technology for looking for people on the Falklands, demonstrating the newest automation, perfectly suited to operate in severe weather conditions.

Traditionally a country’s military would provide the SAR support, using a range of specialist capabilities such as night vision, which is readily available for instant action.

However, the two biggest influences on military provision of SAR are money and role capabilities.  If military provision is too expensive or not fit for purpose it’s understandable that the civil market will be called upon as it’s cheaper, albeit a tricky regulatory market to navigate.

Building this structure, we can see there is global, regional and national interests, all of which must be followed but throughout it’s the operator that remains fully responsible for the control and supervision of the operation under any SAR tasking.

Specific aspects of SAR provision include:

  • UK SAR approvals
  • EASA Helicopter Hoist Operations approval
  • Training and licensing

The regulatory environment is made up of global, international and national interests and this combination of political influences sets the foundation on which industry best practice is built.

3 key attributes of civil provision of SAR aviation:

  • Agility – meeting the necessary requirements and gaining approvals
  • Best practice – using best equipment AW189
  • Accountability

The regulatory environment is both a challenge and an opportunity. The layered nature of national and international guidance assigns a comprehensive set of boundaries within which we have demonstrated a capability to provide an agile, compliant and economic solution.

Robert Jones, SAR Captain AW189, AAR International, outlined the equipment used on the AW189.

This includes:

  • Twin electric rescue hoist
  • Search/weather radar
  • FLIR Day/night system
  • 4 Axis dual duplex AFCS
  • Full auto Hover/winch trim
  • Limited Ice protection, heated intake mats to protect engine
  • Trakka search light 17,000 lumens light up vast area, pilot, co-pilot operated
  • Cargo Hook, to hold bambi bucket for firefighting

David Watson, Chief Crewman & Technical Crewman Instructor, Air Rescue Systems:

All- weather SARs differ to HEMS or med-rescue. Where HEMS and med rescue are established to transport a patient to a safe position to definitive medical care or from hospital to hospital the primary role of all-weather SARs is the extrication and recovery of people from hostile or perilous environments.

Typically, there are four members of the crew on a SAR mission, two technical, a winch operator and a winchman.


Technical crew will be cross trained in:

  • Winch operating
  • Sensor operators to aid location of casualties and flights
  • Winchman, require situational awareness as rest of crew as well as medical skills

Crew are medically trained with at least one paramedic on each crew trained to HEMT (level 3 medial aid)

On-board rescue equipment includes:

  • On-board oxygen
  • Electrical outlets for medical equipment
  • Two rescue stretchers
  • Rescue strops and rescue vest
  • Patient monitor/defibrillator
  • Paramedic level medical equipment

Mark “Willow” Wielopolski, SAR Captain AW189, AAR International:

SAR training is broken down into four stages:

  • AW189 Type Rating at AW training centre
  • Role training: this will take place in a simulator – then every six months for about 10 hours recurrent training
  • Line Training: moving into the aircraft
  • Falkland-based: cover the full SAR training which includes: low visibility operations, search, winching to vessels, winching to mountains, rescue from water, NVG.

John Butler, Vice President, Business Development, AAR Airlift Group

Civil regulatory agencies have developed and formalised the operating concept for industry to safely and effectively deliver specialised missions worldwide.

  • Commercial off the shelf solutions for specialised missions
  • Commercial logistics systems
  • Large, military trained civilian workforce available
  • Programme management & contracting systems
  • Risk management in high threat environments

AAR is a global aftermarket solution that employs more than 4,500 people in over 20 countries.  AAR supports commercial aviation and government customers through two operating segments: Aviation Services and Expeditionary Services.

To watch the session in full, head over to https://www.airmedandrescue.com/video/1641

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