424 Squadron goes to the Netherlands
Our squadron recently took part in an international search and rescue (SAR) competition that also celebrated 50 years of SAR by The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF)
The competition, hosted by 303 SAR Squadron based in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, was held May 25 to 29.
We transported our CH-146 Griffon to the Netherlands for the competition. The Sea King was the helo [helicopter] of choice for the Netherlands' coast guard, as well as for Germany and Belgium. 303 Sqn used the Griffon, while Slovenia showed up with a Lynx helo.
The competition began with a timed navigation and visual landmark identification event. The map was incomplete, not in order and was handed to the first officer only five minutes before the departure time.
SAR techs and flight engineers got photos of various landmarks to identify along the route and to annotate appropriately on the map to accumulate points. We were very successful on all objectives and timing for this task.
The second event followed with a flight over the North Sea and a search for a person in the water, again all timed. We were pretty good with this task also. Our time was beaten by less than a minute, and we were in second place overall after the two events; only one point behind.
The last part of the competition was a team-building event and precision hovering competition. A five person team had to figure out how to move from a small platform through an opening in a wall 15 feet away and up an (10 foot high) elevated platform (on the opposite side. Like the first two, this exercise was timed. Our equipment was limited to one ladder, two planks and two ropes. Points were deducted for touching the ground with equipment or personnel.
The last event was the most important and worth most points: precision hovering!
The challenge was to hook up a metal bucket full of water with a grapple on a 30-foot line attached to the hoist, move the bucket through obstacles, place it on a small target mark, and then use the grapple to ignite a smoke grenade and stop the timing. Penalty minutes were added for spilling water, touching obstacles and so on.
That's where we fell to fourth place. The valiant Griffon (and the big flight engineer) worked as hard as it could, but did not stand a chance against the competition in the 25-knot gusting winds. The first three places went to the Sea Kings, with their 4th axis auto pilots, hydraulic winches and months of practice.
Nevertheless, we the SAR meet was a tremendous success. We saw rescue equipment and procedures used by other countries and brought home lots of information about configurations and techniques. And well-deserved thanks to the CC-177 Globemaster crew who transported us, and 8 Wing air movements personnel for getting us there.
By WO Pierre Miron - Canadian Armed Forces
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