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Remora News & Events

Features

February, 2013


Canadians Fly South

If you've seen some unusual, bright yellow helicopters in the skies over Savannah, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The strangely-painted choppers belong to the Canadian Air Force, and they're here taking part in training off the Georgia coast.

Candian Air Force C-130 Hercules makes a low pass over the R/V Joe Ferguson

A Candian Air Force C-130 Hercules makes a low pass over the R/V Joe Ferguson during recent joint training exercises in Savannah.
Photo: Debbie Meeks

Though the weather seems cold and unfriendly to coastal Georgians, for the Canadian teams, March weather in Savannah is nothing to worry about. Says Lt. Col. Chris Hill, the unit's commanding officer, "as you can imagine, in Canada, the weather's quite cool this time of the year. We're experiencing temperatures of minus five to plus ten, twenty Fahrenheit."

The Canadians are conducting this particular training with a research vessel from Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, an ocean protected area located seventeen miles offshore of McIntosh County. Explains Gray's Reef Marine Operations Manager Todd Recicar, "What they were doing is simulating that we were a vessel in distress - a vessel not underway or dead in the water."

Chris Briand (l) and Todd Recicar (r) lift a barrel of emergency supplies

NOAA Corps Officer LtJG Chris Briand (l) and Gray's Reef Marine Operations Manager Todd Reccicar (r) lift a barrel of emergency supplies aboard the R/V Joe Ferguson. The supplies were dropped via parachute from a Canadian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft training in Savannah.
Photo: Debbie Meeks

In the beginning of the scenario, a Canadian C-130 Hercules flies low overhead and drops flairs to mark the vessel's position and to track wind speed and direction. Another pass overhead, and the aircrew tosses out emergency supplies tethered to a parachute- the boat crew uses a hook to bring the gear onboard. Then the action gets more intense as a Canadian SuperHuey helicopter hovers just above the vessel, dropping and recovering rescue swimmers right onto the deck. It's a dangerous exercise even in the best of conditions.

A Canadian rescue swimmer ropes from a Canadian Air Force Super Huey helicopter down to the deck of the R/V Joe Ferguson

A Canadian rescue swimmer ropes from a Canadian Air Force Super Huey helicopter down to the deck of the R/V Joe Ferguson during recent training exercises in Savannah.
Photo: Randy Rudd

Says rescue swimmer Master Corporal Steve Delage, "I put my life in their hands, and in the flight engineer's hands, and the hoist operator, because, at the point where I'm hooked, and I go down the hoist, I don't really have a lot of input."

This training serves an important purpose for the crew of the Research Vessel as well. It will come in handy if anything goes wrong in the future. Of course in a normal situation, the rescuers would be aboard a US Coast Guard helo from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah. That's why Gray's Reef Personnel train regularly with them as well. "It's vital," says Gray's Reef's NOAA Corps Officer, Lt. Junior Grade Chris Briand. "They're actually our lifeline when we're out thirty miles plus offshore at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. If a diver is injured in any type of diver emergency, we require a helicopter to come and pick them up and bring them in, because it's only about a twenty-five minute flight to and from a hospital in Savannah or a hospital in Jacksonville."

Click here to view video filmed during the exercises.


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