Helicopters Magazine

Features Military SAR
AugustaWestland congratulates 2010 Cormorant winners

September 27, 2010  By Carey Fredericks

Sept. 27, 2010, Yeovil, U.K. - AgustaWestland is pleased to announce that the crew of “Rescue 912” from Canadian Forces Squadron 103 in Gander, Newfoundland has been selected as the winner of the 2010 Cormorant Trophy for Helicopter Rescue.

The winning
search and rescue crew comprising Major Steve Reid of Centreville, Nova Scotia;
Captain Priscilla Jobin of
Ste-Foy, Quebec; Sergeants Brad Lawrence of Gander,
Newfoundland, and    Morgan Biderman of Penticton, B.C.; and Sergeant
Kent Gulliford of Kamloops, B.C. The award was presented Friday night at the
annual SAREX competition in Whitehorse, Yukon by Jeremy Tracy, AgustaWestland
Head of Region – Canada and Chief Test Pilot.  The Cormorant Trophy for Helicopter Rescue recognizes the
Canadian civilian, government or military crew that has performed the most
demanding helicopter rescue of the year.


The crew of “Rescue 912” from Canadian Forces Squadron
103 in Gander, Newfoundland. From left to right – Kent Gulliford, Steve Reid, Priscilla Jobin, Brad Lawrence and Morgan Biderman.


rescue stood as this year’s top example of the selfless dedication of the
professionals who risk their lives daily for the safety of Canadians and others
across Canada and offshore,” said Mr. Tracy.  “All of this year’s nominees exemplified the bravery and
capabilities of the search and rescue community, particularly those invariably
flying into the most treacherous weather conditions imaginable, the most
inhospitable terrain or seas, dangling from the end of a line hanging from a
helicopter or some other physically demanding task that virtually no other
Canadian would imagine.”



On October
24, 2009, a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 103 SAR Squadron (Rescue 912)
responded to a Mayday call from the shrimp vessel Seafaring Legend
.  The distress call indicated that the vessel had taken an
unexpected wave at its stern and was rapidly taking on water. The four-person
crew was forced to abandon ship into the open ocean approximately 90 nautical
miles (167 km.) north of Fogo Island, Newfoundland. Three of the four people on
board were able to don immersion suits and, with great difficulty, eventually
climbed into two separate life rafts. The fourth person was unable to don his
survival suit before the vessel went down, and tragically, did not survive.


Rescue 912
arrived on scene after flying 130 nautical miles (240 km.) from Gander to the
incident location.  Upon arrival,
the crew of Rescue 912 were faced with never-before-seen circumstances.  Every available tool and experience
would be required to recover the three survivors from the two life rafts given
the tremendous sea state and gale force winds.  As confirmed by the Captain of a nearby Canadian Coast Guard
Auxiliary vessel, the waves were averaging six metres, while the displays in
the cockpit indicated that the wind speed was sustained at 35 knots with gusts
up to 50 knots (93 km/h). 


A hoist
sequence to a life raft can be very difficult under benign circumstances as the
target is neither stationary, nor is it visible from the cockpit making an
accurate hover virtually impossible. 
On this day, the life rafts were subject to immense swells and
significant drift such that the rafts would fall into the troughs and then
accelerate both down the front and the backside of each approaching or passing
wave. This was an in incredibly difficult scenario which falls well outside the
limits the search and rescue community would consider safe for training.  Faced with these conditions, Flight
Engineer Sergeant Brad Lawrence experienced great difficulty managing the cable
such that the SAR Techs,  Sergeants
Morgan Biderman and Kent Gulliford, would remain just above the undulating
surface as he provided directional voice commands to Major Steve Davis and
Captain Priscilla Jobin at the controls of the AW101 helicopter.  Not surprisingly, there were a few
instances when the SAR Techs were dunked well under water and then catapulted
back into the air as the wave passed by.


concentrated team effort between the cockpit crew, the Flight Engineer in the
rescue door (providing voice direction, hover trim control manipulation and
hoist cable management) and the SAR Techs on the hook (using hand signals and
then swimming with all they were worth while still attached to the cable)
resulted in all three survivors being hoisted to safety. They also recovered
the body of the fourth crew member.


The other
rescues nominated this year were:


October 13, 2009, a helicopter from Canadian Forces 442 Squadron in Comox,
B.C., dispatched for a medical evacuation of member of a kayaking group who
stranded during bad weather near Bella Coola, B.C. One of the kayakers tried to
hike back and was injured when he fell three metres. The mission required the
crew to operate in high winds, with deploying almost 50 metres down a hoist
cable into a tiny clearing through trees reaching 24 metres into the air on the
side of a steep slope with winds gusting into them at 40 km/h .


January 22, 2010, a helicopter was dispatched from 413 Squadron in Greenwood,
Nova Scotia to rescue a man stranded on an ice floe near Resolute Bay, Nunavut.
The mission involved a 1,800 nautical mile (3,330 km.) transit to the extreme
North of Canada in the most challenging environmental conditions one can
imagine. Through weather delays, emergency repairs and more, the man was
successfully hoisted off the ice and taken to safety.


April 15, 2010, a helicopter owned by VIH Helicopters, under contract to the
Canadian Forces during the military’s 17-day annual sovereignty exercise in the
Arctic called Operation Nunavulit
, was pressed into emergency service to rescue
an Australian adventurer who had fallen through the thin ice during a solo trek
to raise money for charity.  The
civilian crew and two Canadian Forces search and rescue technicians flew 250
nautical miles (460 km.) further north, successfully located the adventurer
from his emergency beacon and flew him to safety.


The Cormorant Trophy is named after the AW101 (former EH101) “Cormorant”
medium-heavy lift helicopter used as the Canadian Forces’ primary search and
rescue helicopter. Over 190 AW101 helicopters have been built or sold to civil
and military customers around the world in a wide variety of configurations


Stories continue below

Print this page