Helicopter Flight Rescue System
The Helicopter Flight Rescue System (HFRS), also known as the Helicopter External Transport System (HETS), is a helicopter insertion and extraction tool which as under the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) is authorized for use in Forest Fire Fighting, Law Enforcement and Search and Rescue. The system is often referred to a "Long Line", "Short Haul" and other terms, and is similar to other helicopter long line systems in use throughout the world.
Under CARs, HFRS falls under Class D operations, which is that it involves a jettisonable human external load suspended beneath the landing gear of the helicopter. By regulation, air carriers, operations personnel, and essential aircrew are required to be extensively trained. There must also be a memorandum of understanding between the tasking agency and the air operator in order to ensure a good working relationship. In British Columbia, the Provincial Emergency Program allows volunteer search and rescue societies to perform HFRS to conduct various rescue missions. Given the benefits of extending a rescuer below the aircraft, thus allowing the aircraft to remain clear of obstacles while a rescue/insertion/extraction is performed, it is evident that this is an essential life saving tool. This system is commonly referred to as longline rescue and involves a rescuer being attached to the bottom of a longline and being slung to a rescue site. This allows the pilot to insert the rescuer into most types of terrain (angle, obstacles, and hazards permitting).
HFRS refers to the particular set of equipment sold as an integrated package or kit, suitable for use on a range of helicopter models and configurations. The system is modular and various components can be attached or detached as the need arises. Examples of modular components include a rescue basket, an "Aerial Rescue Platform" (commonly known as a Bouwman Bag, and various rescuer harnesses. The line length can be adjusted for various conditions such as tree canopy.
HFRS in British Columbia
HFRS was pioneered in Canada by Parks Canada, who performed the first rescues using the long line system in the 1960s. From there, the system became commercialised, and available to industrial and Search and Rescue teams outside of the Parks Canada Safety Program. One of the eariest SAR teams in Canada to adopt the commercial system was North Shore Rescue, and was eventually followed by other teams with high call volumes, and mountainous terrain such as Golden SAR, and Nelson SAR. These organizations recognized a need to move beyond reliance on conventional hover entry-exit techniques (still widely used). The system has proved to be safe, and cost effective, and now constitutes part of the Search and Rescue safety plans within the province of BC, with over 15 teams currently using the technique.
This kind of aerial maneuver originated in the Swiss Alps. In 1970, a mountain guide with Air Zermatt performed the first longline mountain rescue on north face of the Eiger. This mission forever changed mountain rescue operations.
The HFRS system has multiple components which ultimately safely suspend a rescuer under the helicopter (extended below the skids) with two distinct actions required to release the load, and load bearing redundancy. The components include:
|Belly Band||A strap which is fitted through the cabin of the aircraft (encircling the aircraft structure) that provides a secondary point of attachment and release. This adds the redundancy the system requires. Release is achieved with an integrated quick release device, similar to that used on parachutes. link|
|Y-lanyard||The Y-lanyard connects the belly band and the aircraft electric release hook to the main load line. link|
|Main load line||The main load line is a high visibility low-stretch aeronautically approved rope used to suspend the load under the aircraft. link|
|Rescue Harness||The rescue harness is the ultimate point of attachment for rescuers to the system. link|
|Aerial Rescue Platform (ARP)||The aerial rescue platform is used to carry an injured patient. ARP|
Pictures of these components can be viewed in the gallery below. Ultimately, this system is a versatile and safe way of executing complicated rescues in often dangerous and unforgiving terrain.