Eit gets loud. And stormy. A mighty helicopter appears over a clearing in the middle of the Black Forest. Its sliding door is open. One crew member is attached to a winch, another is standing securely on the edge of the cabin, looking down next to him. Now the rescuer is lowered to the ground on a high-strength steel cable 60 meters deep between trees. There two helpers greet him in the midst of the violent rotor downdraft. You release it from the rope again. This exercise worked perfectly.
The H145 used by Airbus Helicopters is an all-rounder: it can fly at speeds of up to 260 km / h and about 700 kilometers. What is particularly important in the mountainous regions of Baden-Württemberg: This helicopter can also be used as a mountain rescuer. The new H145 from DRF Luftrettung, which has been stationed in Freiburg since December 2019, is one of only a few helicopters to have a permanently installed rescue winch. So his crew can help even in mountainous or impassable terrain. The emergency doctor or a member of the mountain rescue service is roped down with the winch. In the opposite direction, a patient or accident victim can also be admitted in unlandable terrain.
These are extremely demanding maneuvers; The pilot, winch operator and doctor or mountain rescue rescuer on board must be perfectly coordinated with one another. That is why abseiling and hauling in with the winch are regularly practiced in different places and in different compositions.
One of these winch training courses, which is completed every six months, was recently held by the DRF Luftrettung together with the Black Forest Mountain Rescue Service in St. Peter near Freiburg. Pilots, winch operators and emergency doctors from the DRF station in Freiburg are involved. There are also rescue specialists from the Black Forest Mountain Rescue Service and the Württemberg Mountain Rescue Service, who have completed special training for operations with helicopters. As part of the exercise, the work processes and procedures on the cable winch are trained as well as teamwork. The winch attached to the top of the H145 cabin can lower a steel cable up to 90 meters long. She carries up to 150 pounds. So two people can easily lift it up or down.
Assumed scenarios for this exercise are injured climbers or hikers in rough terrain, forest worker accidents or the rescue of people from steep, swampy terrain. But the winch is sometimes used in the middle of civilization. In emergencies or rescues on high-rise roofs, chimneys, transmitter masts and cranes.
The winch operator is the link between aviation and medicine. He is always a trained paramedic with an additional qualification for helicopter missions. And only when he has a few years of experience can he undergo a 50,000 euro training course to become a winch operator in a helicopter after a previous aptitude test. He not only takes over the operation of the winch, but is also partly responsible for the radio communication. The winch operator communicates via radio with his command line on the ground, but also with possible clinics that are suitable for the patient. He thus relieves the pilot. This takes over the communication with the airfields that it flies to, or air traffic controllers, if it flies through controlled airspaces. In the meantime, the emergency doctor takes care of the medical care of the patient on board.
At the same time, the winch operator is indirectly involved in controlling the helicopter. The ambulance or mountain rescue rescuer to be rappelled is under the helicopter out of the pilot’s field of vision. The winch operator stands belted at the open cabin door in the helicopter and directs the pilot with information so precisely that the rescuer arrives on the ground exactly where he is supposed to go. “Three meters forward, one meter to the right,” are the instructions. The pilot converts this information into control commands. Precision work is required from everyone in the team. It is also important to keep the helicopter calmly in the air above this defined point despite any gusts. A free space of just three by three meters between the trees is enough to drop an emergency doctor or mountain rescuer on the ground. Meanwhile, the helicopter hovers up to 90 meters above him.