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Helicopters of the Honolulu Fire Department   |   Oahu, HI   09.2016

If you find yourself in an emergency situation while hiking in the backcountry of O’ahu there is a good chance you will be saved by a helicopter of the Honolulu Fire Department (HFD). HFD helicopters are not only used for search and rescue (SAR) missions but also for aerial firefighting. In particular with narrow and winding roads firefighters and ground equipment often would take too long to arrive in time to prevent greater damage.

      The training of different scenarios is a key to successfully cope with the challenges and dangers of SAR and firefighting missions. In September 2016, a firefighter was seriously injured during the rescue of a hiker when he fell almost 30 ft. out of a rescue net while being hoisted to a helicopter. Earlier that year, a firefighter even died during an ocean rescue training. As a consequence, the HFD was forced to intensify the training with fire fighting personnel.

       The focus of the training shown here was rappel operations. In an inland rescue environment, where landing is not practical, rappelling to a survivor is a rescue technique, which is preferred to hoisting. It allows the rescue personnel to better control the speed of descent through trees, foliage and rugged terrain. Usually the rescue personnel is faster on the ground than with a hoist and thus reduces hover time.

       The Honolulu Fire Department currently operates two McDonnell Douglas Helicopters MD 520N (FAA model designation is Model 500N). The MD 520N is a five place, single turbine, multipurpose helicopter. It is designed with a no-tail-rotor (NOTAR) anti-torque system. Due to a non-spinning tail rotor, it reduces pilot workload as well as external noise levels and significantly improves safety in confined areas. The helicopter's performance data are: empty weight 1,585 lbs and max takeoff weight 3,350 lbs. The maximum permitted speed is 152 kts with a range of up to 222 nm and an endurance of 2.4 hours.

2016 / 09