I'm going to turn my attention to how to professionally lay out a search and rescue pattern in the event one is needed. There are basically two situations where you are going to need to do this. The first is for "area familiarization" and the second is an "actual search," especially in an area where you have never flown before. Wind speed and direction will have a direct effect on determining each search pattern so they can't be predicted beforehand. This is the job of the Operations Specialist (OS) but it is something that will require input from the other team members too. It is best finalized in a group setting when the team is present at the command center so that every team member can give his input regarding the things that are going to directly effect contribution to the search. For example, if you are flying over water, then the Ground Support Specialist (GS) is going to want to know what the shoreline terrain is like and where all the available boat ramps are located. The Pilot/paramotor Retrieval Boat (PRB) will need to know where all the boat ramps are located as will the EMS personnel.
It is important to point out that this level of search and rescue is something that is going to evolve over time. Initial searches should necessarily be simple and start with the basics, such as just how high or low can you safely fly and still see the objects on the ground with some clarity. This is, of course, going to depend on the terrain. But at some point as the Squadron and Teams mature and competition with other Squadrons kick in, they are going to want to jack up their operations skills to a Tier One level.
So here are the programs that I am experimenting with for setting out a search pattern.
Use Snipping Tool to cut and paste from my computer screen to a file so that I can print it and use the file and photo for immediate reference.
Use MS Paint to mark locations and make other notes on the Snipping Tool photo file for immediate review. I might mark any hazards or useful landmarks.
Use Google Earth to study the features and terrain of the area to be searched to determine safe launching and landing areas. You can also use the measuring tools to determine the size of the area as well as distances between points and you can lay out a potential search pattern for study.
Use Google Maps to locate streets and routes to follow in the area for the chase team to use in pursuit and support of the paramotor and pilot.
Use NOAA nautical charts to determine any hazards or assets such as overhead high tension lines, boat ramps and water depths to facilitate the PRB (pilot/paramotor retrieval boat) chase team in a paramotor down rescue operation.
Aviation Sectional charts
Use Sectional charts to determine any restrictions or hazards that exist in the area to be searched. You will also see if any precipitation is in the area that might effect a search operation.
First and foremost, use Windy to determine if weather conditions are conducive to a search operation. Type the name of the nearest town to the location to be searched. It will take you to a map with the wind direction and speed at ground level and 330 feet. A timeline at the bottom will give you the expected wind speed at a future time. This is valuable in determining if a search by paramotor is even possible.
Each of these programs adds a piece of the puzzle to developing an effective and safe search pattern for the pilot and chase team to follow. None of it is complex or as hard as it looks. The OS and team should be able to lay out an effective, safe and complete search pattern in an hour or two of studying these charts and maps. I will be going over how I use each one of these programs in the next articles. You may know of other programs that work better or that you just choose to use simply because you are more familiar with them. Please give us your insights. Or better yet, form a team and show us what you can do.
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