Helicopter Crew Flew Backwards To Rescue


A Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter crew has won two of the most prestigious search and rescue awards for a daring mission into the teeth of one of the biggest winter storms to hit North America earlier this year. The servicemen will pick up the Cormorant Trophy and the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award in London on Oct. 23. The five-man crew took off from Gander, Newfoundland, in the blizzard, which had winds gusting to 50 mph and had just dumped three feet of snow on Maine, on Feb. 3 to look for three hunters stranded on an ice floe in the Atlantic. The howling wind was squarely behind the AW101 Cormorant helicopter and that prompted pilot Capt. Aaron Noble to try an “out of the box” maneuver to accomplish the mission. He turned the big chopper 180 degrees to gain more stability and backed the aircraft two miles to the last known position of the hunters.

With his first officer Capt. Jonathon Groten plotting and looking after the instruments and the other three crew members looking out doors and windows to guide the pilot, the aircraft moved into position in time for the spotters to see flares from the hunters. Search and rescue technician Master Corp. Mark Vokey was lowered from the winch and got the three hypothermic but otherwise uninjured men aboard the helicopter. Also on the crew were Master Warrant Officer Jeffrey Warden and Sgt. Bradley Hiscock. The hunters were flown to hospital in Gander. The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators, which sponsors the Prince Philip Award, lauded the crew for “remarkable professionalism and achievement that led to the saving of three lives.