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Search And Rescue heroes; De Kooy Den Helder, May 26, 2010

The Lynx in Service of the Dutch Navy; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On Wednesday, May 26, a visit to Naval Air Station De Kooy in Den Helder was on the program for me. This small air base is home of the Royal Dutch Navy Lynx fleet. The visit was focused on mainly the no 7 Squadron with its SAR flight. The Lynx will be replaced in the future by the modern NH-90 NFH.

It is a stormy day at the North Sea and the fishing vessel Texel 2 is busy at sea bringing in today’s catch. The ship is tilting to all sides as it is bouncing on the waves and the deck is regularly flooded with water. It is hard working for the crew and the work is not without risks. Suddenly the ship heels over to starboard and one of the crew members is slipping out. He falls with his head against the mast of the fishing boat. The man has become unconscious and has a severe head injury. His colleague sounds the alarm and informs the captain of the ship. The captain calls the Coast Guard in Scheveningen with the message "This is the Texel 2. We have a seriously injured person on board which requires immediate evacuation”. The operator of the Coast Guard requires the position of the fishing boat. The captain of the ship says: “Position is 52 degrees 90 north and 3 degrees 22 east”. The Coast Guard operator is still talking to the captain of the fishing boat and he says help is on its way. Immediately a message is sent by fax to De Kooy in Den Helder with the description of the accident and the position of the fishing boat.

“Scramble, Scramble” is called over the intercom in the Squadron building of the no 7 Squadron at De Kooy in Den Helder. A loud buzzer sounds in the building and on the platform. Within a few seconds people are running over the platform and the stand-by Lynx is pushed out of its hangar. The five-man crew are preparing themselves to leave as soon as possible. They dress themselves with orange wetsuits and they rush to the helicopter. The ground crew has already prepared the helicopter and the two pilots start after a short check on the engines. The three people in the back of the helicopter are a savior, a medical specialist and a hoist operator. The hoist operator is checking the winch installation and its related gear. The savior and the doctor are checking the medical equipment aboard the Lynx. The rotor of the Lynx moves already at full speed and the pilot asks clearance for takeoff at the control tower. All other traffic at De Kooy

is stopped and the tower gives the command: "Navy01 is cleared for take-off”. The Lynx is heading to the fishing boat at full speed. All this was achieved in 20 minutes.

Once the ship arrived, the pilot has trouble keeping his helicopter in a hover above the ship. This is due to strong winds which are blowing from the southwest today. Therefore they decide to use the Norwegian style of winching. This means a rope is lowered to the vessel which is used to pull the rescue swimmer on board of the ship. The helicopter is not hovering above the ship, but it’s hovering next to the ship. This is much safer in this situation with high waves and strong winds. The hoist operator is now in command over the helicopter. The rescue swimmer can be lowered once the rope is on the deck of the fishing boat. The rescue swimmer is pulled on board of the fishing boat by its crew, the signal "Frog is on deck" is given. After this, the medic and the medical kit are lowered. The doctor and the rescue swimmer make an initial diagnosis and treat the patient’s injury. The pilot of the helicopter asks how much time they need to stabilize the patient before they can hoist him on board. The doctor indicates that he needs twenty minutes at least. The pilot of the Lynx says he is not going to make this and he decides to refuel at the nearest oil drilling platform.

The helicopter flies away from the fishing boat while the rescue swimmer and the medic stay aboard the ship with the patient. The Lynx makes contact with the oil rig in the neighborhood and asks for refueling. It is very windy and it is therefore very difficult to land a Lynx at the helipad under these circumstances. After a very difficult approach, the pilot manages to land the Lynx safely. The helicopter will be refueled with kerosene and within fifteen minutes the pilot can continue his rescue mission. The rescue swimmer and the medic have now stabilized the patient and he is placed on a special stretcher. Once back at the fishing boat, the hoist operator lifts the patient on board of the helicopter. The rescue swimmer and the medic are lifted on board as well. The hoist operator gives the command over the helicopter back to the pilot and the Lynx can start its journey back to the mainland. The medic treats the patient during the flight from the ship to the hospital. The Lynx lands at the helipad of the hospital after thirty minutes of flying. A medical team is already present at the helipad and they will take over the patient from the crew of the Lynx. The patient is safely delivered at the hospital and the Lynx can fly back to De Kooy in Den Helder. A de-briefing of the rescue mission will follow once they are back at Den Helder.

This story is obviously a fictional story. However, it describes the reality of how this crew are performing their daily tasks with the Lynx of the SAR flight of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The no 7 Squadron is stand-by 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with at least one Lynx helicopter. The five-man crew have a 24 hour stand-by shift in case of an emergency at sea or somewhere else. They always go out, even when the weather conditions will form a risk for the helicopter. Sometimes this leads to dangerous situations at sea, but the crew is brave and professional and will never give up. They have only one goal and that is to save people in distress at sea. This makes the crew real heroes when they perform this dangerous task. They will consider the work which they perform as their daily work. The work which they perform needs a professional mindset to bring it each time again to a success. The helicopters fly out about sixty time each year for these kind of rescue missions. Usually, it is the fishing boats who get into trouble. Within one year, the Lynx which now became outdated will be replaced by the modern NH-90. The Royal Netherlands Navy ordered twenty helicopters of this type. Twelve of these helicopters will be based at De Kooy in Den Helder. The remaining eight will go to Gilze-Rijen.




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