Home >> March 2008 Edition >> FOCUS ON... A CASE OF SURVIVAL
UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency Helicopter Conducts Dramatic Rescue

On February 1st, 2008, the fishing vessel Spinning Dale ran aground on rocks in the remote Scottish archipelago of St. Kilda. With severe weather preventing the use of life rafts to evacuate the crew, helicopters were dispatched to the scene.

Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 100 from Stornoway, the newly introduce Sikorsky S-92, successfully evacuated all 14 crewmembers from the foundering vessel. Liz Forsyth, the only female helicopter captain in UK civilian search and rescue, captained the helicopter.

Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 100, operated by CHC Helicopter Corporation (CHC) under contract to the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), flew with the added safety and capabilities of SkyTrac’s Satellite Communication (SatCom) and flight following technology.

During the rescue mission, the SkyTrac system was used to provide reliable voice communication between the aircraft and ground-based coordination personnel and to continuously track the aircraft’s location. As a result, MCA and CHC will continue to leverage the capabilities of this system as they develop new operational procedures that will ultimately help them improve future mission performances.

Specific capabilities provided by the SkyTrac system that aided in this dramatic rescue include:

  • Enable the CHC ground crew and MCA personnel to “follow” all aircraft at all times (i.e. to know the aircraft locations with great accuracy and to overlay location information onto computerized maps)
  • Support the flight crew in routinely communicating status messages by using predefined quick text messages or predefined message templates with editable fields
  • Provide low cost, clear and reliable satellite voice communication that goes beyond the range of traditional radio communications
  • Communicate alerts to CHC ground crew and MCA personnel in the event of an aircraft emergency (triggered by SkyTrac’s MayDay)
  • Assist the CHC ground crew and MCA personnel in planning and executing a search pattern during a rescue missions

“Firstly, I think we should all salute the flight crew for carrying out this rescue mission in terrible weather with very strong winds,” said Carl Taylor, a member of CHC’s Search and Rescue (SAR) team. “Secondly, it is missions like this where we are especially grateful to have SkyTrac’s system telling us where the aircraft is, and where it needs to go, and keeping us in constant contact.”

About CHC’s SAR Contract

The U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency contracted CHC Helicopter to provide coast guard search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter services, using Bell/Agusta AB139s and Sikorsky S-92s, starting in July 2007. CHC will ultimately operate two S-92s from the base at Stornoway, two S-92s from Sumburgh, two AB139s from Lee-on-Solent and one AB139 from Portland.

The Portland base will operate during the day, the others around the clock. The contract marks the first time the S-92 will be used in a dedicated SAR role. CHC’s S-92s will have dual hoists, autopilot, coupled-hover capability, and the new rotor-ice protection system.

About SkyTrac

SkyTrac supplies SatCom solutions for data, text and voice communications. With customers on every continent and from all areas of operation, the company has acquired a long list of Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs). In addition, the company’s hardware has been installed on a large number of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft types from AgustaWestland, Eurocopter, Bell, Sikorsky, MBB, Beechcraft, De Havilland, LearJet, and Raytheon. For more information about SkyTrac, please visit http://www.skytrac.ca/.