Sheephaven Search & Recovery

Nov 14 2012 Posted by Office Administraton

Sheephaven Search and Recovery Unit conducts a number of training exercises throughout the year, generally in conjunction with other Maritime Rescue organisations, such as the RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard. Last Saturday the S&R Unit joined up with Rescue 118 at the Downings GAA Grounds, where they were given a practical demonstration on how they should embark, disembark and load a casualty on to a helicopter.

On the arrival of Sligo based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, call sign Rescue 118, fourteen men and women of Sheephaven were treated to a detailed description of the Sikorshy S-61N by the crew of the aircraft. Winch Man Aidan Thompson greeted the S&R Unit leader John Joe Rowland and then went on to introduce his colleagues, Pilots Ollie Ollerton and Yogi Brummer and Winch Operator Justin Radford who collectively made up the multi-national flight crew.

The Sheephaven S&R Unit members were then instructed that in the event that they have to work in conjunction with a rescue helicopter which has landed to collect a casualty, they should be conscious that the aircrafts rotor blades on start up or close down can almost touch the ground, consequently they should never approach the aircraft at that time and only do so under the clear instructions of the crew. Additionally anyone waiting to approach the helicopter should be aware that the downwash from the main rotor is strong enough to knock them off their feet, as well as dislodge any loose gear that may ultimately get caught up in the helicopters rotors. Consequently the waiting divers should huddle together, control their gear and be aware that they should only approach the aircraft from the front or side and never from the back, which is a blind spot for the pilots.

In the event that the S&R Unit is working with a Rescue helicopter at sea then they were advised that in all possibility it would be best conducted with the dive boat under way, ideally at 8 knots and the coxswain should concentrate on keeping position under the starboard side of the aircraft and not focus on the winch man.

With regard to the technical specifications of Rescue 118 it has a cruise speed of 115 knots, greater or lesser depending on wind conditions; a range of 5 hours covering an area from Shannon estuary to Belfast and 185 miles from base; its maximum load is 4 crew and 8 passengers; has two turbine engines each 1350 HP and a maximum fuel capacity of 5,000lbs, modified to 2,500 lbs for training exercises. The Sikosky 61 was originally designed in 1961 and Rescue 118 was built off those original designs some years later. The Sikosky S-92, the first of which was delivered to the Irish Coast Guard in January of this year, has superseded the 61’s. Rescue 118 will be replaced in due course, when she will be rebuilt with new carbon fibre rotor blades and all the old cockpit control panels replaced by modern LED screens and displays and then sold on to a new life elsewhere.


Provided by Dearn Mc Clintock