Tag Archives: Pave Hawk

Behind the scenes of Team Rescue at Space Shuttle Endeavour launch

By Lt Col Robert Haston
920th Rescue Wing Chief of Safety                   

No space shuttle crew ascends to the Heavens without a few angels on its shoulders. The 920th Rescue Wing, stationed out of Patrick Air Force Base, is always on deck to ensure the astronauts are safe in case of a mishap. In this blog post, Lt Col Haston, an HH-60G Pave Hawk Pilot,  provides us with a glimpse of the 920th Rescue Wing’s mission before, during, and after launch.

Team Rescue

Our support for the launch starts three hours before launch (L-180 in NASA lingo) when two HH-60s from Patrick AFB arrive at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) to be ready for different types of launch area emergencies (Modes I-IV). At L-120 the first of two more HH-60s is at 6,000 feet over the 20 by 60 mile launch danger zone. They use radar and ship tracking receivers to get a long range picture of boats approaching the area.

Since ships may be closing at up to 30 knots, we initially scan an area a third of the size of Florida. We contact and move the ships, which can be difficult considering the ship may be roughly the size and weight of the Empire State Building, and we are talking to a watch captain who has a limited command of English.

Once we have sorted the big boys out, we have to deal with the professional fishermen who are generally no problem unless they are asleep below decks, which might require pushing their boat around with our rotor wash to wake them up. We also have to deal with sport fishermen and pleasure boaters who run the gamut from competent to clueless. Hopefully there isn’t a swarm of them. In the middle of this (around L-90) we pop up and get gas from a Marine Tanker.

We go land and get ready for our real job, covering for potential post launch mishaps. Modes V-VII (at or near the SLF) are pretty much a helicopter show, so they aren’t too complicated unless the Shuttle winds up in the water or trees, leaking poisonous hydrazine, etc. Mode VIII is overwater rescue which may take place off the Carolinas, and involve three tankers and four helicopters, plus more assets coming down from Cherry Point or New York. From exercises, I can say that the real challenge is if we all arrive on scene to find the astronauts, sort out who gets which, who goes to what hospital, and which tanker goes with which helicopters. Hopefully it isn’t on a moonless night in bad weather.

For more information on Team Rescue, see this story. It was posted toward the end of April to coincide with Endeavour’s original launch window.

PHOTO: Every time a space shuttle takes off, the Rescue Reservists from the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, are on hand in case of emergency. The 920th Airmen are charged as guardians of the astronauts during NASA space shuttle missions to and from the Kennedy Space Center. This includes four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and crew, three HC-130 P/N King aircraft and crew and about 15 pararescuemen, not to mention all of the maintenance support personnel who keep these aged aircraft flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Matthew C. Simpson)

AF Week Day 3: The Day Airmen Were Like Celebrities

The Kennedy Space Center is a pretty cool place, and we made it even cooler. Exactly how, you ask? By making some cameos! The Wings of Blue dropped by– er, I mean down– into Kennedy Space Center. An HH-60 Pave Hawk flew in and landed to support the pararescue static display for Air Force Day, which the crowd loved (thanks to the 920th Rescue Wing pilots who were the ones that flew it in). The AF Honor Guard performed throughout the day, and the crowd must have loved them because they wanted autographs. Tops in Blue and Max Impact also performed to some crowds. It was boiling hot today, but people still enjoyed the entertainment. Of course, Airmen and families had fun hanging out at the KSC too. That’s it for today, but I’m sure tomorrow will be pretty fun as well.

PHOTOS: (Top) Air Force displays and attractions were set up throughout Kennedy Space Center, such as the famous Air Force A-10 Monster Truck.
(Second from top) The 920th Rescue Wing’s HH-60 Pave Hawk flies into Kennedy Space Center.
(Second from bottom) The Air Force Honor Guard performs for a Kennedy Space Center and Air Force Week crowd.
(Bottom) The Air Force Parachute Team, Wings of Blue, jumps down into Kennedy Space Center.
Photos courtesy Auburn Davis, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

Rescue effort at sea

An international rescue effort is currently en route to a ship in the Atlantic approximately 700 miles off the west coast of Ireland.  A crew member on board container ship “Pascha” has fallen seriously ill and needs urgent medical attention.

The ship’s distance from land makes it impossible for the traditional sea rescue operations to reach; and the U.K.’s Rescue Coordination Center requested the assistance of the U.S. military forces who are based in England.

An RAF Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft launching from RAF Kinloss in Scotland will provide coordination for the airborne effort that will include a total of four different aircraft platforms.

Two HH-60G helicopters with Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s 56th Rescue Squadron based out of RAF Lakenheath will perform the actual rescue.  In order to get to the rescue site, the helicopters will need to refuel en route.  The aircraft refueling the helicopters are MC-130P’s from Air Force Special Operations Command’s 352nd Special Operations Group based at RAF Mildenhall.  This is an aircraft specially fitted to refuel helicopters, but its range requires that it refuel mid-flight as well, for this kind of long distance flight.

The 100th Air Refueling Squadron out of RAF Mildenhall is launching a KC-135 to refuel the MC-130P, providing the range that is vital to this mission.

A very similar effort was dispatched employing these same units on December 10th of last year.  That mission was successful in retrieving the patient and getting him to medical care in time.

“We’re working fast with our U.K. partners to try to get to this sailor in time to help.  We have some of the best-trained crews in the air right now who are intent on getting this patient stabilized and to safety,” said Col. Jay Silveria, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing.  The 56th Rescue Squadron is a part of the 48th Fighter Wing.

The helicopters will take their patient to a location in Shannon, Ireland, where medical providers will be waiting to take him to a nearby hospital.

Thanks to the Public Affairs office at RAF Mildenhall and to Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan & Tech. Sgt. Marelise Wood for the photos.

Captions:

RAF Lakenheath, England — Capt. John Frederick, a 56th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk pilot, talks with the Rescue Coordination Center at RAF Kinloss about an ongoing rescue. A worker on a cargo ship approximately 700 miles west of Ireland requires immediate medical attention, and the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force are working together to make it happen. The route the helicopters from RAF Lakenheath will take to the ship is sketched on the map. (U.S. Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan)

RAF Mildenhall, England — An MC-130P Combat Shadow from the 352nd Special Operations Group prepares for takeoff in support of a rescue effort of a crew member onboard a container ship off the coast of Ireland. The rescue effort involves coordination between the U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force units. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Marelise Wood)