A helicopter is a type of aircraft that depends on the work of a rotor, or in some helicopter models, a set of rotors, in order to gain lift and propulsion. In general, helicopters can be classified both as an aircraft and a rotorcraft. Basically, an aircraft pertains to any vehicle that can launched into the sky and actually fly; a rotorcraft, on the other hand, is any vehicle that uses a rotor or a set of rotors to push itself upward, backward, downward, or in lateral directions into the sky. Over the past decades and years, the role that this aircraft has played in civilian works and programs, search and rescue missions, and even on military operations, has seen a dramatic increase both in terms of diversity and sophistication. Gone are the days when helicopters are merely used to transport goods and people. Today, one can see helicopters fully equipped with search and rescue tools and equipment. There are even those that are fully geared to eliminate threats and enemy combatants as in the case of attack helicopters. The objective of this paper is to discuss helicopters and their apparently increasing role in search and rescue operations.
The term helicopter, in fact, was derived from the French word helicoptere which was first used by a guy named Gustave Ponton d’Amecourt at some point during the nineteenth century. Some sources suggest that it rather originated from the Greek word, helix, whirl, spiral, convolutions, and wings . In modern English and American society, however, the terms chopper and copter, among others, have started to replace the more conventional helicopter.
Helicopters are aircrafts that specialize in vertical flight. Unlike airplanes, they do not have to gather a lot of horizontal speed because their mechanism of taking off is not really similar to that of airplanes. Instead of a horizontal launching mechanism, helicopters make use of vertical flight. That is, they may stay in a relatively confined space, with as minimal movement as possible—at least when compared to airplanes and still make it to the skies. This is, in fact, one of the major advantages that helicopters have over their bigger and often more expensive brothers—the airplanes. They do not require a lot of space to boot, and they can almost be launched and landed anywhere, as long as there is a flat and sturdy surface that can support the helicopter’s total weight and of course, the size of its feet.
When it comes to search and rescue works and operations, the role that helicopters play can be quite large. For one, their reliability as a commodity and passenger transport aircraft has long been proven. They require a lot less space than rescue planes. A lot of things can be mounted on them, from rescue gears, to dangling ropes and ladders where people can hang onto and actually start rescuing people from any distance beneath the helicopter. In cases where there has been a recent catastrophic natural disaster, for example, helicopters can be sent by search and rescue teams to survey the area first.
Part of the objective of that first team of surveyors is to check the extent of the damage that the natural disaster has created. That would most likely be followed by the task of looking for survivors. Most modern helicopters are now equipped with the most sophisticated navigation tools and equipment such as cameras, global positioning systems (GPS), radars, and heat scanners, and night vision apparatuses. Because of this, the role that they can play in search and rescue operations and even in paramilitary operations has dramatically increased.
Supposed there were a team of hikers who called for help after realizing that they were being lost in the woods. Local news stations would most likely show pictures of helicopters scouting the area where the team of hikers was last seen in order to locate and then extract them, in their reports. Search and Rescue (SAR) is a term that is used to describe operations, works, or programs that aim to search for people in an event where a natural disaster such as earthquakes, hurricanes or man-made ones such as building collapses, occurs .
That aim is often followed by a rescue directive which often aims for the extraction of the survivors from the hazard zones. At some point SAR operations also aim to provide aid to people who are in imminent danger or are in serious forms of distress. There are, in fact, different types of search and rescue, some of which depend on the type of terrain where the actual operation would be done. Some of the common examples are mountain rescue, urban search and rescue, ground search and rescue, and combat battlefield search and rescue.
One good thing about how helicopters can be used in search and rescue operations is that they can rescue anyone or salvage anything in almost any type of terrain. They can salvage anyone or anything in the water, in the cities where there are a lot of buildings and delicate structures, and even in the dessert. By using helicopters as the primary vehicle in search and rescue operations, organizations that conduct these types of activities can minimize the duration of the actual search; minimize, if not completely eliminate the loss of life and properties; minimize injury and the possible extent of damage to the environment or community; and of course, to maintain their position as one of the top providers of search and rescue services .
In an event of an earthquake whose epicenter was in a metropolis of a highly busy city, for example, one can only assume that there would be a lot of people who would be at risk of being buried underground. Now, using helicopters, SAR organizations and the different disaster control and prevention-related organizations and departments in the government would be able to launch a quick SAR work to look for potential and already victimized disaster victims, extract them from the area by all means necessary, and provide appropriate medical assistance to injured victims and rescuers (yes, rescuers get injured sometimes while performing their SAR duties too), while simultaneously ensuring that the rescuers would be safe during the entire operation.
Helicopters perfectly fit the description that an SAR organization may use when describing the type of aircraft that it may use in such operations. Helicopters can be mounted with ladders, ropes, and basically any type of equipment that can be tied upon ropes and ladders to rescue potential survivors or victims in an SAR operation. Also, it can let rescuers dangle on to those ladders and ropes and pick up the equipment and or people who they were asked to salvage .
In summary, helicopters have evolved to become one of the most effective and efficient search and rescue aircraft vehicle. It can perform almost any type of job that is related to search and rescue, it more importantly, it can do so with a lot of ease. One of the most important things in any SAR operation is for the SAR team in charge to get the job done and helicopters have so far proven itself as a great tool in helping SAR teams and organizations make that happen.
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