Heli training with Air CorpHeli training with Air CorpRecently 2 of our Search Dog teams Pauliina and Koiru and Catherine and Lily attended helicopter training with the Air Corps. Here is a report from Pauliina:
The Air Corps lads had prepared the day thoroughly and knew exactly what they wanted to do. There were a number of drills for embarking/disembarking for MR team, for MR team carrying a stretcher, and for SARDA handlers getting on and off the aircraft with the dogs. After the initial classroom presentation, we went through the drills both in daylight and after dark.
What was particularly positive was the fact the Air Corps seem to be really keen to increase cooperation both with MR teams and with SARDA. As regards to the carrying of dogs in the aircraft, they have prepared a protocol and have some equipment in place for the dogs. The procedure itself is pretty straightforward but it was still useful to actually practise it.
1. The handler + dog are the 2nd person to board (out of total of up to 8 persons in the cabin – including the crewman). When given the signal from heli crew, the dog team approaches the aircraft from the 2 o’clock position.
2. When they get to the door, the crewman attaches a temporary restraining lanyard to the dogs collar. The handler and dog then move to the assigned seat by the dog tray.
3. When the handler has fastened their seat belt, the crewman attaches a permanent restraining lanyard to the dog’s collar, removing the 1st lanyard.
4. The handler keeps the dog positioned on the dog tray during the flight.
The dog-specific equipment in place is the 2 lanyards (each with a carabiner to clip to the dog’s collar) and the dog tray. The dog tray is just a plastic platform which the crew can fix down and take up quite easily. We had both dogs on it at one point (on the same lanyard, with a separate carabiner attached to each dog’s collar).
In comparison to the CG heli, this machine seemed to be able to operate very swiftly and to take off very quickly once everyone had embarked.
There is no winching procedure at present (even though this possibility was discussed), but from the dog handlers’ point of view the procedure described here is probably simpler. If the heli can’t land due to soft/unsuitable ground, they can hover at a few feet which would still allow people to disembark if necessary at a mountain location.
The Air Corps maintain a record of currently qualified dogs and handlers.
Video courtesy of Kerry Mountain Rescue Team