4 IAMSAR Guidance
4 IAMSAR Guidance
4.1 As noted above, the IAMSAR Manual, especially Volumes II & III, is the primary source of guidance on SAR aircraft operations. IAMSAR Volume II says , in the context of mass rescue operations, that:
“Helicopter capabilities should be used if available, especially for retrieval of weak or immobile survivors. Lifeboat crews should be trained in helicopter hoist operations. Lowering a rescue person from the helicopter to assist survivors may be viable.
“Ship companies should be encouraged to equip large passenger ships and possibly other types of vessels with helicopter landing areas or clearly marked hoist-winch areas to facilitate direct transfers.”
4.2 While landing areas may be limited, marked winching areas, clear of obstructions, should be prepared and joint training opportunities should be encouraged, to the benefit of both ships’ and helicopter crews. IAMSAR Volume III should be consulted as regards all aspects of ship / helicopter operations. See also guidance papers 5.1 & 5.3 as regards training and exercises.
4.3 IAMSAR includes the following comment on the number of SAR aircraft required:
Volume II, chapter 7.1.3.
“In any SAR operation, SMCs should consider the capabilities and the number of aircraft required. Too few aircraft in an operation might prove fatal for persons in distress, while too many can be difficult to organize and increase the risk of collisions. Other factors that might affect the number of aircraft required include the number of casualties, the carrying capacity of participating aircraft, weather conditions on scene, the distance of persons in distress from rescue facilities, the number of evacuation points, the speed at which an evacuation can take place, the speed of participating aircraft, the availability of refuelling facilities, the duration of an operation, aircrew fatigue and other operational factors. Where more aircraft than needed are available some can be held in reserve.”
4.4 On aircraft capabilities and SAR planning IAMSAR says:
Volume II, chapter 7.1.4 & 7.1.6 and Volume III, Section 5.
“SMCs should consider how to match different aircraft capabilities to the circumstances and tasks required. For instance, fixed-wing aircraft might be excellent communications platforms and able to carry out searches and ACO duties, but are not capable of rescue hoist operations. SAR helicopters are flexible in their operations, but usually cannot fly as fast, as far, or as high as fixed-wing aircraft and generally need to refuel more often. Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) might have useful reconnaissance and communications capabilities and be able to remain on scene for long periods of time, but some RPA also have a limited radius of operations. In general, for safety reasons, aircraft flown by aircrew and RPA should be kept well apart. [...]
“SMCs should consider the abilities of the crew and aircraft when planning and during operations, so that no tasks are beyond their abilities.”
If tasks are given that would require aircraft and aircrew to conduct flying activities “beyond their abilities or their approved types of operations [...] the pilot-in-command shall inform the RCC/OSC/ACO immediately.”
4.5 The SMC, working closely with the OSC and ACO,
“should aim to achieve the most effective blend of aircraft and surface unit capabilities for the situations that are anticipated. The operation should aim to achieve continuous or efficient use of aircraft on scene when needed, while minimising the situations in which aircraft are airborne without a mission.” Aircraft held in reserve “can provide additional resources if needed, or relieve other aircraft involved in the operation for reasons related to aircrew fatigue or maintenance requirements.”
IAMSAR Volume III, Section 5.
4.6 Good communication and understanding between SMC, OSC and ACO, and between the ACO and the pilots-in-command of the aircraft responding to the incident, are essential to flight safety and operational success. The coordination of multiple aircraft responding to an MRO is a specialist subject which the text added to IAMSAR deals with in detail, and for which potential ACOs should be specifically trained. See guidance paper 4.5.
4.7 The new IAMSAR text also includes guidance on the reporting necessary to the ACO’s and aircraft commanders’ situational awareness; on refuelling; and on entering and leaving ‘areas of SAR action’.
IAMSAR Volume III, Section 5 defines an ‘area of SAR action’ as “an area of defined dimensions that is established, notified or agreed for the purposes of protecting aircraft during SAR operations and within which SAR operations take place”.
“SAR aircraft intending to enter an area of SAR action should normally first contact the ACO. They should not enter the area until the ACO gives them permission and provides them with sufficient information to safely join the flow of SAR aircraft involved in the operation. [...]
“Aircraft that are not involved in a SAR operation should normally not fly within areas of SAR action. However, if such aircraft need to enter an area of SAR action, they should do so only with the approval of a SMC, ACO or coordinating ATS unit and are subject to the rules of the area or the relevant class of airspace. If a SMC or coordinating ATS unit is giving approval, the ACO should first be consulted.”