It was a dark and stormy night in November when a sailboat sent a mayday signal about 60 nautical miles off the Norwegian coast.
The hurricane-like winds had swept the North Sea up into waves 32 feet (10 m) high, and the two men on the 39-foot sailboat were in dire need of help. Hope waned as the sailboat took on more and more water.
When the sailboat’s scramble alert reached the CHC Helicopter base at Statfjord, Norway, the search and rescue (SAR) team quickly geared up to respond. As 80 mph (70 knot) winds raged outside, the SAR crew headed to the scene in an S-92® helicopter.
Two pilots, a winchman, a rescue man, a flight nurse, an extra winchman trainee and a helicopter were all that stood between the sailboat crew and tragedy.
Survivors picked up safely
After its departure from Statfjord, the weather radar of the S-92 SAR helicopter quickly picked up the location of the sailboat and a standby vessel prepared by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JCC). Within 45 minutes of the scramble alert, the S-92 was on scene and ready to retrieve the survivors.
At this point, the sailboat was laying perpendicular to the waves, making it impossible to pick up the survivors straight from their boat. The mast swept dangerously, while the boat violently thrashed in the ominous waves. In order to be reached safely by the CHC crew, the sailors were instructed to hop overboard into the dark waves. The first sailor jumped on command into the sea as the SAR crew kept him in sight. The rescue man was then lowered into the sea in the direct vicinity of the survivor. After attaching the rescue strap to the survivor, both survivor and rescue man were quickly winched up to the helicopter.
A mere 20 minutes after the S-92 arrived on scene, both survivors were safely on board the helicopter and being cared for by the flight nurse. The helicopter crew then set course for Bergen Airport where an ambulance was standing by. After delivering the survivors to the airport, the CHC SAR helicopter crew returned to Statfjord to resume duty.
More rescues to come
While the sailboat rescue seems dramatic, these are the exact type of scenarios CHC’s SAR crews train for. CHC has decades of experience in quickly mobilizing customer solutions anywhere in the world, and operates one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated network of SAR services.
Since August 2017, CHC has been using Sikorsky S-92 All Weather Search and Rescue (AWSAR) helicopters. The S-92 has proven to be a stable and versatile platform for CHC, which recently added a third S-92 AWSAR helicopter to its Norwegian fleet and operates eight of them globally.
With extensive experience, expertise and capability, CHC’s crews routinely demonstrate skill, courage and dedication in undertaking missions in the most testing conditions — including dark and stormy nights.
To learn more about CHC, visit its website.