Skip to main content

Protector in the sky that says “I can’t leave behind”

  • Release Date:2016-07-26
  • Source:NASC

The National Airborne Service Corps is standing by 24-7, 365 days a year to protect the life, property and safety of people from the sky. Everyone on the Corps knows that every mission they conduct is the worst possible scenario in dire straits. We just take it head on nonetheless.
At the front line of rescue, the sight of the Corps’ helicopter is the hope for the numerous stranded people who are fighting for their lives. The mission and duty on their shoulders and the danger of flying such a mission are unbelievably difficult for the commoners. For flight instructor, Mr. Liu, Hsing-Jen, of Squadron 2, 3rd Wing of the Corps, what comes to his mind every time he flies a mission is “I can’t leave them behind.” He always throws himself in the harm’s way and puts himself in the shoes of those in need for help.
A seasoned and experienced flight instructor, Mr. Liu said that there is one particular air rescue mission he will never forget. On Feb 10 2012, a Thai cargo ship, the Oberon, was no her voyage from Taichung Harbor back to Thailand carrying more than 1,000 tons of butene (liquefied gas material). As she was sailing at the waters not far from Mudou Island, Penghu, she ran into an underwater rock seemingly due to the high winds. The hull started listing and taking in water, and the onboard fuel was spilling. The 16 seamen on board the Oberon were in extreme danger. The northeastern seasonal winds were strong and the surface was terribly rough. The Coast Guard boats were unable to approach the ship as it was aground at an area scattered with hidden underwater rocks. Therefore, a request for helicopter was made for rescue from the air.
Upon receiving the request, the Corps scrambled 2 AS-365 Dolphins of Squadron 2, 3rd Wing (stationed at Xiaogang, Kaohsiung) for the rescue, and Mr. Liu was the pilot of one of the two Dolphins. He said as they arrived at the target area, the weather was terrible with gusts up to level 11 and the helicopter was like a ping pong ball being tossed around. With a short discussion, the crew decided to hoist the stranded seamen one by one onto the helicopter hovering 100 feet above the ship. As the helicopter was approaching the listing ship, the waves were pounding on the listing hull and suddenly grew into watery monsters as tall as a few dozens of meters splashing the fuselage of the helicopter, making the mission that much difficult and dangerous. The accompanying rescue specialists struggled to descend onto the narrow patch on the deck where the sailors barely found their foot hold, but managed to hoist every one of them safely onto the helicopter. Now escaping from certain death, the crew of the cargo ship gave the Corps’ crew the thumb up and said that they were “superman.”
Still terrified, Mr. Liu remembered that day. He said that was a cold day and the freezing salty winds made him, who was barely hanging on the control stick, felt as if his body were nothing but a big chunk of ice. It was that cold, and the rescue specialists were soaked completely by the splashing seawater as they descended on the ship’s deck. What the crew had in mind back then was to get the stranded seamen to shore as soon as possible without any accident. Fortunately, it was a successful rescue. He joked that he was too excited to keep his eyes shut that night.
Without a doubt, a rescue scene comes with many risks, be it the challenge of weather or terrain, or the rescuer’s own skills or experience. Any of these factors could turn a successful rescue into a heart-breaking tragedy. Facing and dealing with possible crisis and making sure everyone is safe are what matters. “When five men go out, there has to be five coming back because that’s five families we are talking about!”
In fact, the rescue missions of the Corps do not just come with risks. The tricky part is timeliness and unpredictability, because everyone standing by has to be there so that they can rush to the helicopter for rescue at the first possible moment. Liu points out that it is not uncommon to receive several requests in a very short period of time to go places that are hundreds of kilometers apart. For example, there was one day that he flew from Xiaogang, Kaohsiung to the Orchid Island for a rescue mission and transferred the patent to Taitung and flew back to Xiaogang. 15 minutes after he landed, another call came in asking him to fly to Kinmen to pick up a seriously sick patient, bring him to Taipei and then come back to Xiaogang, before the next mission that required him to fly to Magong to pick up another patient, fly him to Taichung and then back to Xiaogang again. He said he spent more than 10 hours that day flying. Despite the hard labor, one can always see in the line of duty of National Airborne Service Corps what it means to be a protector in the sky that “I can’t leave them behind.”