HH-46E Sea Knight
Search and Rescue Service is the performance of distress monitoring, communication, coordination and search and rescue (SAR) functions. This includes the provision of medical advice, initial medical assistance, or medical evacuation, through the use of public and private resources, including cooperating aircraft, vessels and other craft and installations. Even though many SAR helicopters can operate at night and in near-zero visibility, they require more time to maneuver under these conditions. Radio discipline is essential for uninterrupted crew communication during the approach, and to permit DF equipment to give a steady bearing when homing. Aircraft should avoid transmitting to helicopters executing a pick-up.
Navy Search and Rescue [SAR] resources include extensive numbers and types of aircraft, surface and submarine vessels, sea-airland (SEAL) teams, diving teams, salvage forces, and radar nets, Sound Fixing and Ranging (SOFAR) nets, and worldwide communications and DF networks. Naval commanders will normally assist SAR coordinators in handling SAR missions.
Aircraft types include both fixed-wing and helicopters. The P-3 Orion long-range aircraft is equipped with radar, extensive communications, and a variety of sophisticated sensors, including, forwardlooking infrared (FLIR), making it an excellent search and OSC platform. Also of use for SAR are the carrier-based S-3 Viking and early warning (E-2 Hawkeye) fixed-wing aircraft. The primary SAR helicopter for visual conditions is the HH-46, also used is the HH-60, and the SH-60 Seahawk is an excellent all-weather SAR helicopter. The endurance of these helicopters can be increased if used with ships having helicopter-refueling facilities. Special-purpose aircraft, similar to those operated by the Air Force, are also available.
The HH-46D and HH-46E lack crashworthy crew chief/gunner and aerial observer seats, exposing aircrew members to higher risk of injury or death in the event of a hard landing, crash or aircraft rollover. Current crew chief/gunner and aerial observer stations provide limited compatibility with existing aircrew mission requirements. Operational demands require that the crew chief/gunner/aerial observer be positioned at the main cabin door or window aft of the cockpit for extended periods of time. Pilots have an energy-absorbing seat in the cockpit. However, the aircraft?s crew chief is the single occupant not provided with a crash-attenuating seat. While the crew chief may choose to occupy an existing CATSS seat elsewhere in the cabin, this reduces the number of seats available for passengers by one. Further, the crew chief needs a seat in close proximity to the cockpit in order to properly perform his duties. The lack of a crash attenuating seat for the crew chief exposes this crewmember to much higher risk of injury or death in the event of a hard landing, crash, or aircraft rollover. The US Navy/Marine Corps has need for a crashworthy crew chief/gunner and aerial observer seat for use on HH-46D and HH-46E helicopters.
The Marine Corps converted three CH-46E to HH-46E to fly search and rescue through 2015. Marine Transport Squadron 1 took five aircraft for a flight over Eastern North Carolina before officially retiring two of them 07 December 2007. About 20 crew members, including Col. Frank P. Bottorff, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point's commanding officer, took part in the final flight honoring the retiring HH-46D Sea Knight helicopters. The five birds known as "Pedro," the call-sign for search and rescue aircraft, flew over several cities including New Bern, Jacksonville, Morehead City, Swansboro and Atlantic Beach before returning back to Cherry Point. VMR-1 had used the HH-46D model primarily for SAR missions with the U.S. Coast Guard when extended searches in eastern North Carolina were required. The last two HH-46Ds were replaced by HH-46E versions that incorporate enhanced capabilities and performance characteristics. Engines with 25 percent more power, fuel tanks with 30 percent more capacity and a much larger communications and navigations suite will now be the standard for Pedro. The transition to the HH-46E began in January 2006. Every few months, the squadron received one of the new aircraft until they were all phased in.
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