The survivor floats on the surface of the sea, having escaped a plane crash less than an hour ago. The current here is strong and he drifts farther away from the main group of survivors. Then he saw a speck of grey flying towards him. It was a Airbus Helicopter EC725 dubbed the Super Cougar, the new workhorse of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
Inside the cockpit, the pilot could spot the lone survivor and a few others, drifting towards the open sea. Thanks to the AHCAS (Advanced Helicopter Cockpit and Avionics System), pilots of the EC725 could do what its predecessor, the Sikorsky S-61A4 Nuri, could not. The EC725 features a full glass cockpit and the Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Displays ensure the pilots better monitoring of the displays under the glaring late morning sun.
The pilot hovers over the drifting survivor. He is assisted by a digital search and rescue system that provides automatic search patterns, transition and hover. Unlike the Nuri, the EC725 could “drift” along with the survivor as the winch strop is lowered by the air quartermaster. Although the hover altitude is higher (more than double the Nuri’s), the EC725 managed to pick up the drifting survivor and other drifting survivors in no time, thanks to the powerful twin Turbomeca Makila 1A4 turboshaft engines that features a dual-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) , something the Nuri was not capable of. The Nuri would have to fly away after a couple of pick ups to cool its engines off.
The above was the Water Search And Rescue portion of the Search and Rescue exercise (SAREX LIMA 15) in preparation for next week’s Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2015 (LIMA 2015). The exercise was divided into two segments, Water SAR and Land SAR. SAREX LIMA 15 was to test the Search and Rescue plan and inter-agencies coordination and logistical cooperation. The aim was to test, assess and improve the Airport Emergency Plan before the commencement of LIMA 2015. The Exercise was held from the 4th to 6th March 2015 and involved among others the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal Malaysian Police, Royal Malaysian Navy, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, the Fire and Rescue Services Department, the Malaysian Marine Department, Ministry of Health, the Malaysian Meteorological Department, the Malaysian Army’s Royal Medical Corps, Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and last but not least, the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia. Assets that were involved included two helicopters, 11 surface vessels and four jet-skis.
When met, RMAF’s Chief of Staff (Air Operations) Major General Dato Haji Abdul Mutalib bin Abdul Wahab TUDM said that he was awed by the superb performance of the EC725. He opined that the EC725 is by far the best search-and-rescue asset he has ever seen, given the capabilities it displayed during SAREX LIMA 15. This is of course of utmost importance as there are quarters bent on ridiculing military purchases. Seeing with my own eyes how the EC725 was able to hover effortlessly throughout the exercise brought much satisfaction to me knowing that this was the correct choice made by the RMAF and there should not be any politically-motivated condemnation towards the organisation for purchasing what it should have had for the longest time.
The Fire and Rescue Services Department should also be applauded for a superb medical evacuation exercise task performed at SAREX LIMA 15 using its Mi-171 helicopter.
It is hoped that the inter-agencies coordination that was put to test during SAREX LIMA 15 will better prepare the emergency services for any eventuality not just for LIMA 2015, but for all search-and-rescue incidents.