“Tie Downs” – Somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean
(ATLANTIC OCEAN) The men and women I work with each and every day inspire me in a way that I can’t get from normal life on land. Dependent on ourselves to get the work done in the middle of the ocean, we sacrifice our normal lives on land to ensure mariners are safe at sea and our inland and coastal waterways remain protected. Part of that mission sometimes involves the use of airborne assets that are employed for SAR (Search and Rescue). Getting fuel in the middle of the ocean isn’t like landing on a gigantic aircraft carrier…no sir…the footprint of the flight deck on a Coast Guard Medium Endurance Cutter seems like it’s the size of a playing card viewed on the ground from the second story of an apartment building. Simply put, it’s incredibly small! Combined with the fact that you have two giant pieces of machinery, moving above and within an ocean, containing thousands of moving parts – landing an aircraft (helicopter in this case) on the deck of a ship this size is dangerous.
Safely on Deck
The downdraft that flight deck personnel experience during the landing of the Coast Guard Jayhawk (the Coast Guard’s version of a Blackhawk) helicopter is upwards of 50 miles per hour. As soon as the aircraft lands, tie-down personnel must rush out and tie the aircraft down to pad-eyes located on the heavily abrasive deck; this keeps it from moving with the pitch and roll of the ship. On a fairly calm day, there isn’t nearly as much danger as there is when the seas don’t cooperate. Fact of the matter is, sometimes we don’t get to choose when a SAR may occur, in which case this entire procedure may need to be done when the sea isn’t quite so cooperative.
If you have ever wondered what the Coast Guard does, this is just one of the many missions these men and woman are a part of. Since 1790, we’ve been there – for 225 years we’ve been keeping mariners out of harm’s way and protecting the nation’s coastal and inland waterways. Semper Paratus!