In 1907 the first helicopter flew.
In 1939 the first practical helicopter with a tail rotor was flown by Igor Sikorsky.
In 1944 the first landing on a helicopter carrier took place.
In 1945 the first rescue by helicopter was carried out in Connecticut.
In 1953 the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm began its first dedicated Search and Rescue (SAR) squadron.
This year (2015) it all hands over from a military obligation to become a civilian contract. It also happens to be the year in which my book RESCUE PILOT is to be published by Bloomsbury; a collection of stories from my time flying SAR in 771 Naval Air Squadron.
Only a few months ago I suddenly discovered that one of the guys I’d served and flown with on SAR (when he was Leading Aircrewman “Scouse” Hogan) had not only emigrated to the same country as me but was now a Commander and head of Australian Naval Intelligence. We picked up where we’d left off 35 years earlier, had a few beers together and not only reminisced but also discovered shared interests in filming from the air.
“Mike “Scouse” Hogan demonstrates his prowess at winching during the Birmingham Boat Show, Feb 1978)
I concluded that it was time to write a blog, tell a few stories that are in the book and perhaps some more that aren’t. I’ll just write it for the duration of this year, turn over a few stones and hopefully hook up with a few more old mates from our time “in a blue suit”. If you’re out there, send me an email, send me photos for the website (www.rescuepilot.net) and abuse me for writing down the stories about you. Then come to one of the book launches in the UK (March), Australia (April) and the USA (September), it’s time to party again.
Most of all it’s time to celebrate all you guys who worked so hard to save so many lives during the 62 years of SAR in the Fleet Air Arm. As HRH Prince Andrew put it so very succinctly in his kind foreword to my book “This book ……. acts as a reminder of the bravery and selflessness of the crews who put their lives at risk to save others. I am reminded of the undeniably strong camaraderie of aviators as well as the wonderful sense of humour that arises in the face of adversity”
“If a man is in need of rescue, an airplane can come in and throw
flowers on him, and that’s just about all.”
“But a direct lift aircraft could come in and save his life.”
Helicopter pioneer Igor Sikorsky
Paul Cornu in his first helicopter in 1907. Note that he is sitting between the two rotors, which rotated in opposite directions to cancel torque. This helicopter was the first flying machine to have risen from the ground using rotor blades instead of wings.
The world’s first helicopter landing by U.S. Coast Guard Sikorsky HOS-1 on a helicopter carrier, USCGC Cobb (WPG-181), 15 June 1944. The world’s first take-off from a helicopter carrier occurred from the same ship on 29 July.