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04 September 2019
04. September 2019 Helicopters

A rescue to be remembered

A Chilean Navy AS365 Dauphin and AS332 F1 Super Puma were at the centre of the successful night-time rescue of a windsurfer

AS332 F1 Super Puma

Article: Carlos Ramos -聽Read more in聽Rotor magazine N掳116

Photos: AG真人计划 Helicopters and Armada de Chile

S
aturday 18 May 2019 is a date that Ver贸nica Blanco will never forget. The 29-year-old was windsurfing in Pichidangui Bay, off the Chilean coast, when her equipment malfunctioned, leaving her marooned in the water without any hope of getting back to dry land and at the mercy of strong winds and the currents and chilly waters of the South Pacific.

Nor will she ever forget the sound of the AS332 F1 piloted by Lieutenant Commander Carlos Schaidt, or the rescue swimmer, Staff Sergeant聽Manuel Pizarro, who freed her from her equipment and took her safely aboard, by which time her body temperature had dropped to below 35鈦癈.聽

A HIGHLY COMPLEX MISSION

Ver贸nica鈥檚 family had reported her missing at around 5pm, at which point the Coquimbo Maritime Authority deployed search and rescue teams on land and sea. Unfortunately, due to the heavy swell, current, strong winds and poor visibility, these resources were insufficient, with the decision then being made to activate the air response. Two helicopters were assigned to the mission: a Dauphin from the Naval Helicopter Squadron, and a Super Puma usually operated by the Attack聽 Squadron. 鈥淕iven the complexity of the mission, we tried to get the helicopters in the air as soon as possible,鈥 Schaidt explains.

The Dauphin was deployed in advance and was the first to reach the last known coordinates, conducting an initial search in the form of an expanding square (see sidebar). In the meantime, preparations were made for the AS332 and its crew to replace the Dauphin when it came in to refuel.

鈥淭he Cougar Super Puma carried out a search with a more comprehensive range of equipment, which made things easier for us, thanks to the infrared night-vision camera and the optronic sensor,鈥 Schaidt says.聽

Windsurfer marooned in Pichidangui Bay
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Search and rescue 03 September 2019

Windsurfer marooned in Pichidangui Bay

The Super Puma traced a creeping line search pattern and, after flying over the area for a little more than an hour, the infrared camera operator spotted a shape floating in the sea

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Windsurfer Rescue
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Search and rescue 03 September 2019

Windsurfer Rescue

The Cougar Super Puma's night camera was essential in Ver贸nica Blanco's rescue

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Windsurfer Rescue Armada De Chile
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Search and rescue 03 September 2019

Windsurfer Rescue Armada De Chile

Ver贸nica Blanco will she ever forget the sound of the AS332 F1 piloted by Lieutenant Commander Carlos Schaidt, or the rescue swimmer, Staff Sergeant Manuel Pizarro, who freed her from her equipment and took her safely aboard, by which time her body temperature had dropped to below 35鈦癈.

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Windsurfer Rescue Armada De Chile
 / 
Search and rescue 03 September 2019

Windsurfer Rescue Armada De Chile

Ver贸nica Blanco was rescued by the Armada de Chile after being marooned in Pichidangui Bay, off the Chilean coast

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SIGHTED AT LAST

The Super Pumatraced a creeping line search pattern and, after flying over the area for a little more than an hour, the infrared camera operator spotted a shape floating in the sea.

Taking up the story, Schaidt says: 鈥淲hen we spotted the person, the pressure on the team was huge because we knew that there was someone in danger and that every second counted. We then marked a point close to the position with a lighted distress signal and began the approach manoeuvre. We used the 4-axis autopilot to keep the aircraft stable so that we could lower the rescue swimmer and recover the victim.

鈥淚n addition to the training and experience of the crew, we wouldn鈥檛 have been able to complete the rescue if the helicopter hadn鈥檛 had the equipment we needed to maintain a secure and stable position while hovering, with no points of reference, at night and out at sea. Nor would we have been able to spot her without the help of the optronic sensor.鈥

The lieutenant commander and the rest of the crew received recognition for their efforts a few days later, at a ceremony held on Chile鈥檚 Navy Day, where they met with Ver贸nica鈥檚 family.聽

AS365 Dauphin

For us and for me personally, it humanises the technical aspects of a rescue mission and it makes you aware just how beautiful and important this job that we have to do is.

- Lieutenant Commander Carlos Schaidt

H225M

Naval missions

Eurocopter EC 225 Super Puma Mark II Offshore Helicopter on  a plateform, in North Sea, next to Bergen, Norway, on September 27, 2008. Photo by Nicolas Gouhier/ABACAPRESS.COM

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