Friday, May 1, 2009
Rotorcraft Report: S-92’s Longest SAR Ride
PUBLIC SERVICE | COASTGUARD
A Sikorsky S-92 made the longest non-stop mercy flight to date for the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Based in Stornoway, Scotland, the S-92 flew 265 miles across the Atlantic Ocean on March 13 on a dispatched call to rescue a 26-year-old fisherman whose hand had been crushed while at sea.
"The fishing boat’s location was almost 290 nautical miles west of Stornoway Airport when the call came in," said John Bentley, the chief pilot at the MCA’s Stornoway SAR base and the captain of the four-man crew who flew the mission. "Although it was technically within our flying range due to an extra fuel tank we have fitted to the aircraft, we had the option to take some extra fuel onboard on the way to the casualty, without compromising his well-being. So we refueled first at Benbecula Airport on the Outer Hebrides before flying over open water."
The weather was generally good with a 30 knot wind blowing. However, mindful that storms can come up fast at sea, Bentley wanted an extra safety margin of fuel. After leaving Benbecula Airport, "We flew directly to the casualty, and spent 10 minutes there before returning to land," he said. "We had an RAF Nimrod [surveillance plane] overhead keeping us informed on changing winds so that we could fly back at the optimal altitude." Generally, the winds during the flight remained at 30 knots at 8,000 feet, including a 10-knot tailwind that was more than Bentley had expected. As a result, fuel consumption was less than planned, giving the S-92 a little leeway.
"We could have gone farther with the fuel we had on board, probably up to 275-280 nautical miles," Bentley said. "The S-92 handled the flight very well, and indeed performed exactly as we had hoped."
The aircraft is operated by CHC Helicopters of Richmond, B.C. in Canada under contract to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.