A Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) module was lifted by a Chinook helicopter at RAF Brize Norton and flown through the air in Oxfordshire during a joint training opportunity involving the RAF and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service as part of normal Contingency Planning.
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service provided the module to be air-lifted for the benefit of both parties. The Fire and Rescue Service now know how they would have to configure their Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) modules should they have to be air-lifted to a disaster site, and the RAF obtained technical data that they will be able to apply to the lifting of similar containers on purely military tasks. In addition, all military personnel involved gained useful training value from preparing and lifting the unusual load.
Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens said: “At this stage we are looking at an initial capability that may be developed into the USAR capabilities becoming fully air portable. I am particularly pleased at this trial which significantly enhances the National Resilience capability for the benefit of the UK. This is another excellent contribution by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service to national resilience and I wish to say well done in particular to our officers Nick Searle, Paul Lawless and Andy Lenwey.”
Mike Moran, from Liverpool-based Bootle Containers, said: “We are delighted to be able to support Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service in the handling trials. When we originally manufactured the USAR & Mass Decontamination Containers we didn’t envisage that they would be top lifted by Chinook helicopters, this was certainly outside of the design envelope.
“When we received the request from Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, it did send us scrabbling to check our design calculations. Happily, our processes and manufacturing capability were such that we knew, with some confidence, that the containers would pass muster and would be able to be flown without incident.”
Squadron Leader Paul Bolton, Officer Commanding Helicopter Section at the Joint Air Delivery Testing Evaluation Unit at RAF Brize Norton, said: “JADTEU Helicopter Section personnel and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service personnel have worked closely together through the initial assessment phase, static trials and ultimately the flight trial to produce an Under Slung Load clearance for the USAR modules.
“This unusual task proved extremely beneficial and challenging to both parties and we are extremely pleased with the outcome that has enhanced the capabilities of the Fire and Rescue Service and provided a significant amount of data for other similar but unrelated military clearances.”
Photo above shows the Chinook at RAF Brize Norton lifting the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service USAR module.