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Sunday, August 1, 2004

Editor’s Notebook

James T. McKenna

The Time is Now

Each month seems to bring us new examples of how helicopters can help people in need. We have tales of stranded climbers plucked from mountains, occupants pulled from cars in rain-swollen rivers, crews saved from swamped boats and severely injured patients rushed to life-saving care. Such stories should make anyone associated with helicopters proud.

Most distressing, however, are cases in which people in danger might have been spared had a helicopter been available and used properly. Fortunately, stories of such incidents are far outnumbered by those of good ones. But we hear them all too frequently, which is to say we hear them at all. For those familiar with what helicopters can do in times of trouble, it can seem hard to believe that political leaders, emergency managers and the general public have not universally recognized the critical need to have helicopters available in times of crisis.

One might think these leaders, managers and citizens would find justification enough in last year's wildfires around San Diego--which spread to devastating proportions in part because their outbreak followed by a week the expiration of a lease on one of the few readily available firefighting helicopters in the region. One might think there is justification enough in the findings by official investigations that the loss of life in the September 11 attacks in New York might have been mitigated had helicopters been integrated more effectively in the plans and tactics for managing that disaster.

But we all know that among political leaders, emergency managers and the public, some remain unconvinced of the helicopter's value to public safety. Therefore, we all must strive to help them recognize that value and act to make full use of it. There is no better way to do that, I think, than by sharing stories of the feats performed by helicopter crews in emergencies. This is why you need to make your nominations now for Rotor & Wing's annual Helicopter Heroism Award.

For more than 40 years, this award has honored helicopter crews who have gone to extraordinary lengths with their aircraft and their skills to save lives. The performance of award-winning crews represents the best of the best that rotorcraft contribute to public safety. Stories of their feats, therefore, are some of the best ammunition this industry has for convincing the uninterested and the skeptical of the value of helicopters to our daily lives. But we can't tell those stories without people out in the field, people like you. You know of the feats, of the extreme dangers faced and the skills and expertise a helicopter crew applied to overcome them, and of the wonderful results for those saved. Nominate these brave individuals for this prestigious award. Share their stories with us, and we will share them with the world.

We've made some refinements to the qualifications for the 2004 Helicopter Heroism Award. The eligible period for missions considered this year has been extended. Missions are eligible if they were flown between Jan. 1, 2003 and Sept. 15, 2004. Previously, the eligibility period ended on Dec. 31. But since we do not present the award until our annual EMERGENCY RESPONSE Conference and Exposition, which is usually held the following November or December, awardees had to wait a long time for consideration and recognition. The revised eligibility period will allow us to consider more current missions for the award. Next year and thereafter, the eligibility period will extend from Sept. 15, 2004 to Sept. 15, 2005.

Last year, we broke the mold a bit for the Helicopter Heroism Award. Traditionally, it had gone to a dedicated search-and-rescue crew, or perhaps an air medical services outfit. Typically, winners came from a military or coast guard unit (and occasionally an EMS one). Last year's winner was CW4 James E. Hardy, U.S. Army (ret.) for his rescue of a fellow Apache crew during combat in Afghanistan. Hardy's selection highlighted the fact that heroic life-saving acts are performed by air crews of all kinds. I doubt there is a helicopter pilot who wouldn't help someone in need if he or she had the ability to do so. Keep that in mind in considering who you might recommend for this year's award.

If you know of a crew worthy of the Helicopter Heroism Award, let me know. You can do so by email to jmckenna@accessintel.com or by phone at 1-301-354-1839. Look for a rundown of the nominees and the selection of the winners in our November issue. And join us in honoring the winners by attending EMERGENCY RESPONSE 2004, which will be held Nov. 17-20, 2004 in San Diego. You can learn more about that event by contacting me or visiting www.EmergencyResponseShow.com.

The feats of those considered for the Helicopter Heroism Award are among the best this industry has to offer. Let's share them with the world. The time is now.

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