HAI Convention News

UTC Rescue Demo Turns Into the Real McCoy

 - March 5, 2013, 3:00 PM
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Bell 412 crew was seconds from launching a fast-rope and emergency rescue hoist demonstration when they received a call that cancelled the demo and sent them instead on a real-life SAR mission in the Red Rock Canyon area.

A live helicopter rescue demonstration organized by UTC Aerospace (Booth No. C2425) was abruptly cancelled Sunday morning when, moments before the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police crew began to lower the fast-line, they received an emergency call for the real thing.

With an audience of more than 70 and two television crews watching from the roof of the Wynn Encore parking garage, the UH-1H main door closed and the helicopter banked abruptly away, headed for Red Rock Canyon, a rugged area about 20 miles west of Las Vegas, to assist an injured hiker.

For a company involved in rescue hoist technology, there could have been no better demonstration than reality, said director of business development and former U.S. Marine Alexander Echeverria.

According to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police aircrewman David Vanbuskirk, the aviation department averages more than 125 helicopter search and rescue (SAR)-specific missions a year, covering some 8,000 sq mi of often inhospitable terrain around Las Vegas.

UTC Aerospace opened its annual user’s conference on Sunday, and many of the 100-plus operators in Las Vegas for two-day seminar were at the demonstration.

Learning from Mistakes

The conference typically draws UTC equipment users and operators from all over the world, and this year attendees came from as far away as Queensland, Australia and Colombia. The focus at each event is on new technologies and best practices. This year, said UTC spokesman Andrew Martin, the conference offered an example of what is right with the users and operators conference when one operator bluntly and honestly gave some examples of what his department had done wrong, and what it had done to ensure it didn’t happen again.

“There is no better learning tool,” said Martin. “We not only appreciated the honesty, but also the opportunity for UTC and everyone there to learn and avoid making the same mistakes.”

Those who attend the user and operator conferences are often some of the most active in the search-and-rescue business. Don White is a senior deputy and crew chief with the aviation unit of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. The unit typically operates 670 flights a year, with as many as 120 of them of an emergency medical transport or search and rescue nature.

Brian Gutherie is chief crewman with CareFlightGroup out of Queensland and his department operates along Australia’s Gold Coast, where it engaged in some 750 missions in 2012 with two Bell 212s.

UTC Aerospace produces integrated rescue hoist systems for a diverse array of aircraft from virtually every helicopter manufacturer in Asia, Europe the Middle East and the U.S.

According to UTC, its Sensors and Integrated Systems rescue hoist is the only hoist-and-cable unit that offers both a traditional “level wind” and industry unique “translating drum” cable management system. It was developed to overcome the operational challenges generated by high winds, obstacles, terrain, pitching decks, swift water and a multitude of circumstances beyond the operating crews’ control.

At its exhibit stand here, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company will be promoting a variety of new technologies, including dual hoists to meet a growing SAR requirement. Dual hoists provide “a force multiplier that significantly enhances risk management and the chance of executing a successful mission,” said the firm.