Flying with 771 NAS on a practice search and rescue mission

August 24, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

Flying with the Royal Navy Search and rescue in the 80'sDressed for action on one of my first aerial shoots. A full flight suit and helmet was needed to shoot with the Royal Navy

Back in college I was lucky enough to arrange to fly with a Royal Navy Search and Rescue Helicopter from RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall as a photography project. On a rainy September morning I went up with the crew from 771 NAS on a flight exercise.

They practiced hovering close to the cliffs. And I mean really close to the cliffs – the blades were maybe 20 feet away from the rocks. Because the instruments can’t tell you what is beside you, only your altitude from the ground below, the observer had to look out of the side door to tell the pilot how many yards away the rotor blades were from hitting the cliff. This was the only guidance the pilot had. These guys were really good.

flying with 771 NAS from CuldroseChecking for clearanceThee observer is checking for ground clearance as we fly near the cliff tops. He’s wearing a harness to stop him from falling out. I wear one too on my aerial shoots !

Hovering low over the seaAnother shot from my flight with 771 Naval Air Squadron. We’re only a few feet above the sea here.    A Westland Wessex from 771 NAS practicing winching in Cornwall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to get some shots of the helicopter hovering over a rocky outcrop. So they dropped me off in a field. Later, after I had finished my shots they retrieved me by winching me back in, dangling outside the helicopter door. This was a bit unnerving to say the least.

 

Search and Rescue practice pickup in a Westland Wessex from 771 SquadronPickup timeYou can just make out the winchman hanging below the helicopter as they came to pick me up.

The last part of the morning flight was to simulate a total engine failure a few times and land with no power. This was my first experience of autorotations, and a crew member kindly suggested I unplugged my headset in case I threw up as the sound would annoy everyone. Happily, I didn’t get sick. 


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