Three types of SAR Operation: Three levels of Equipment
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Within the space of two decades, search & rescue (SAR) helicopters have had their horizons considerably broadened. The most sophisticated aircraft are now capable of operating day and night, in all weather conditions, hundreds of nautical miles from the coast. Highly advanced mission equipment is the reason for this enhanced capability. While a light helicopter with a hoist is all that is needed for a daytime operation on dry land, performing a rescue at night, a long distance from the coast, calls for a complete set of equipment that can sometimes weigh almost a metric ton. Crews must also undergo complex training. Three levels of equipment correspond to the three main types of SAR operation.

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Round-the-Clock SAR Missions

To perform day and night missions, the SAR helicopter must have a sophisticated autopilot (AP) in addition to its standard equipment. The AS365 N3 Dauphin can be fitted with a four-axis AP, which receives information from additional sensors such as a Doppler radar, GPS and a second radio altimeter. This AP ensures automatic transition to hover flight. Just like on the heavier aircraft, the hoist operator can accurately adjust the position of the helicopter using a control stick in the cabin For nighttime SAR missions, the helicopter can be equipped with a forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera, powerful external lighting, a searchlight, and a cockpit that is compatible with the use of night vision goggles.


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Performing a SAR mission at night far off the coast calls for a complete set of equipment that can sometimes weigh a metric ton.

Long Range, Round-the-Clock SAR Missions in All Weather Conditions
For this type of SAR mission, the main requirement for the aircraft—in addition to the equipment mentioned above— is a complete deicing system, sophisticated navigation and search equipment, and extra medical equipment for taking care of survivors. The cockpit can also be equipped with a digital mapping system coupled with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) used by boats, and a satellite radio link. The cabin can be equipped with a console for the hoist operator, which displays the radar information, and has controls for the FLIR and the searchlight. To ensure the success of the mission, a back-up hoist can also take over should the main hoist fail.


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The EC145 cabin has a flat deck that can accommodate two injured people lying down.

Daytime SAR Missions
The hoist, which is capable of lifting the rescuer and victim at the same time, is the main tool for SAR operations. The aircraft is also equipped with a flight management system (FMS), which flies the aircraft over a pre-programmed search grid at sea. The EC145 has the perfect cabin for SAR missions: Obstacle-free, with a flat deck and a modular design, it can accommodate one or two injured people lying down. For SAR operations, the EC145 is also equipped with emergency flotation gear on the skid landing gear, a weather radar, and a PA system.



ARTICLE: ALEXANDRE MARCHAND