RNLI Torbay day and night-time exercises with RNAS Yeovilton
Last Wednesday afternoon, RNLI Torbay completed a series of air sea exercises involving Royal Navy Merlin HC3 aircraft from Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, and our Severn Class all weather lifeboat.
The exercises were an opportunity for both services to train and practise close air sea operations in both daylight and night-time conditions. It allowed Royal Navy pilots to add some low level airtime experience linking up with vessels whilst underway and to undertake high-line transfers between aircraft and lifeboat. This can be essential when right out at sea and medics need to transfer from helicopter to treat casualties on board, or when casualties need to be airlifted from a lifeboat and flown at speed to on-land hospital facilities.
It also allowed our crew to work the high-line transfers and experience themselves (but only in daylight for training purposes) what it is like to be airlifted from a moving lifeboat up to and on board a helicopter.
A high-line operation involves a rope being lowered from the helicopter, caught, and maintained by the crew, which in turn facilitates the winching down of a person safely onto the deck. Practising all the correct operational procedures is essential, even down to dismantling lifejackets from automatic to manual inflation on people being winched from vessel to helicopter.
From Torbay’s distant beaches, the downdraught of the rescue helicopter's blades in the evening haze could be mistaken for smoke, and indeed, a 'ship-on-fire' was reported by a concerned onlooker to Solent Coastguard resulting in a request being channelled to Torbay lifeboat station to investigate and assist. Understandably the crew were on site instantly, and able to report back that all was well!
Mark Criddle, Torbay RNLI's Coxswain said; ‘The training exercise was a great success. We are always grateful for the opportunity to work with RNAS Yeovilton and especially under night-time conditions because it all helps to hone our effectiveness when we are operating 20 plus miles out at sea.’
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.
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