Air Force rescuers pull female hiker to safety


Verified SOF
Aug 18, 2007
San Antonio Texas
From the AF website:

Good example of a crew working around regs/instructions to make it happen.

12/29/2010 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- Senior Master Sgt. Mike Flake, an HH-60G Pave Hawk flight engineer with the 305th Rescue Squadron here, had been flying a training mission Dec. 22 around Tucson, Ariz., where his unit trains regularly.

Upon clocking out, he was home by 9:30 p.m., enjoying family time, when he received a call from a Pima County Search and Rescue official requesting his help.

"They told me a female hiker had fallen and they thought she had broken her leg and back," Sergeant Flake said.

This set the "rotors" in motion to rescuing a 23-year-old woman from the Pusch Ridge in the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains, where she had been lying, injured, for hours.

Civilian rescue workers on-the-scene treated the woman and secured her to a back board, due to a possible back injury, but high winds made the Department of Public Safety helicopter turn away, and darkness kept the civilian rescuers from carrying her down to the trail head.

Familiar with the terrain, and with just enough time left on his "crew clock," Sergeant Flake went back to work, along with pilots, Lt. Col. Paul Anderson and Capt. Anderson Kester, and an aerial gunner, Tech. Sgt. Josh Donnelly, to help guide the aircraft into the steep terrain.

Despite the winds, the members of the 943rd Rescue Group were equipped for the conditions. The only challenge they faced was that it was the end of the duty day and Air Force safety regulations prohibit them from operating aircraft without the proper crew rest.

Within work-rest limits, the crewmembers got to base and did some mission planning, Colonel Anderson said.

"The mountain is close to 8,000 feet high," he said. "We plotted the coordinates and (the hiker) was at 4,500 feet. We determined how much power we needed."

The higher a helicopter goes, the less power there is to hover, because the air is thinner, he said.

Although there was a slight cloud cover, Colonel Anderson said he was glad there was also a full moon.

The more ambient light there is, the better the night-vision goggles work, he said.

The crewmembers took off at 11:25 p.m. for a 10 mile flight to the Pusch Ridge.

The area was clearly marked by an infrared strobe, visible only to those wearing NVGs.

The crew did a few practice approaches to see what the winds were like, and picked out a spot where they could lower Senior Master Sgt. Michael Atkins, a pararescueman, or PJ, with the 48th RQS.

"The winds were high, but we got underneath that turbulent air as we got closer to the mountain," Colonel Anderson said.

They flew in among the granite cliffs.

"I hoisted the PJ down about 100 feet," Sergeant Flake said. "It was pretty steep.

"Anytime it's dark and windy near the side of mountain, you can't get too low because of the clearance of the rotor blades," he said. "That's why we could only get down between 70 and 100 feet. No trees were sticking up, but it was really rocky."

The PJ unclipped and the chopper flew off. Sergeant Atkins rigged the patient's litter with cables.

Fifteen minutes later, the chopper returned and Sergeant Flake hoisted the litter carrying the patient who was completely covered in a sleeping bag and blankets.

The hiker had been dealing with her pain for more than five hours.

"That's a long time to be strapped to a back board," Sergeant Flake said.

In a little more than an hour, the Airmen got the injured hiker out of the crevasse and to a nearby hospital.

"This is exactly what makes combat search and rescue the best mission in the Air Force, said Col. Harold Maxwell, the 943rd Rescue Group Commander. "Not only is our wartime mission second to none as our Airmen save lives from the battlefields of Afghanistan, but as reservists, they're making an impact right here in their local community. An Air Force rescue helicopter and night-vision-goggle-equipped crew made all the difference."
SMSGT hogging the glory...he needs to get back to the office lol.

Good job boys!