Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rescue Hovercraft Ice Rescue

I recently spoke with a states Senator about utilizing hovercrafts for a certain project. In the course of the conversation he asked me if the hover can go over fast moving water and what the impact was on the hover. I explained to him that the current only provides a slightly higher cushion and enhances performance. He then asked me if it would travel over ice, at that point I realized he really had no idea what a hover can do so I took the time to explain it to him. His first question after that was, "has the local fire department talked to you about buying one of these?" I smiled and said "I have contacted everyone of them in the area and none of them have bought one yet!" he shook his head and said, "They keep asking me for money to buy a boat, the next time they ask I'm going to tell them to contact you because this makes more sense than a boat." He is right the correct hovercraft makes an excellent rescue vehicle. However it has to be the right hovercraft. The Hovertechnics Hoverguard series covers a wide range of sizes from 12-20 foot and can handle a wide range of duties. Hovertechnics hovercrafts are rated at certain load capacities by the US Coastguard however they are capable of a much higher load capacity. I'm not saying over load but what this hover offers is the ability to over perform if you are operating within the range allowed. If you are allowed 600 lbs. and the hover can physically lift 800 then you will not have a performance issue at 600 lbs. I practice a lot when I'm out flying and have successfully maneuvered single and twin prop hovers into positions to perform rescues under various conditions. Ice rescue is always tricky and requires pinpoint accuracy on the approach, the Hoverguard 600 with a 100 HP engine and variable lift can put you into a position to retrieve a victim. The beauty about using a hover for ice rescue is that you never have to leave the safety of the hover. From what I've read and after talking with some 200 rescue workers the typical ice rescue is approached in a couple of ways when there is no hovercraft available. One they utilize a rescue suit that protects the rescuer from the elements then they use ropes, and or ladders, and rubber boats to crawl across the ice to the victim. Now if the ice is thin enough for a person to fall through then it cannot be driven on so most other forms of vehicles are excluded from the rescue at the point of extraction of the victim. The impact of the hovercraft on the surface is minimal, I heard one person explain the pressure on the surface is compared to a seagull standing on one foot. I have spoken with rescuers that have crawled as far as 100 feet to get to a victim, and I'm sure this is not the furthest anyone has had to crawl to rescue a person. This is extremely time consuming and dangerous and when you have a person in frigid waters and time is a huge factor you don't want to waste it but, you have to be careful and consider the safety of the rescuer, the last thing you want is to wind up with more people in distress. I spoke with one department that described a recent rescue they were involved in that took them 45 minutes from the time they arrived on the scene until they were able to rescue the individual. When they told me what they had to do I then described to them how a hover would be used in the same situation. I said you arrive at the scene, you release your tie down strap, you start your hover, pivot the trailer, accelerate fly from the point of unload, onto the ice, out to the person. Without having to get out of the hover you reach over the low sides secure the victim, pull them into the hover and fly back to the point of the waiting rescue vehicle. Based on what the rescue worker told me the entire time to retrieve the person would have been about 3 minutes versus 45 minutes. The rescue workers involved would have been two not 10 or what ever it took so you reduce the number of people at risk. The rescue workers can stay in the unit or if they have to get out they do so at the point of extraction and then once they retrieve the person they reenter the hover and fly back to the safety of the shore. The 12 foot Hoverguard 600 is so steady that you can stand on the edge of it and it will not flip so two rescue workers can extract the person in peril and pull them to safety. I think the Senator was correct in his assessment of the need for a hovercraft for rescue purposes.  In my next blog post I'll discuss the use of hovercrafts in assisting flood victims.


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