SAR Meet 2009 at Leeuwarden

At Leeuwarden airbase, the 50th anniversary of the 303 SAR (Search-And-Rescue) squadron was celebrated with a SAR-meet.

In 1959, 6 Sud-Aviation Alouette II helicopters marked the beginning of the Dutch Air Force SAR activities at the Ypenburg airbase. A few years later, the Alouette II helicopters were replaced by Sud-Aviation Alouette III helicopters. During the mid-nineties, the Augusta-Bell AB412 helicopters were introduced, with their bright yellow colour scheme. The bright yellow colour gave these AB412 helicopters the nickname “Tweety”. Since the mid-1970’s, the location of the SAR squadron was at Leeuwarden airbase, due to the vicinity of the Cornfield and Jackpot air-to-ground ranges on the northern Dutch islands Vlieland and Terschelling. The SAR helicopters were also used to transport sick/injured people from the northern islands to hospitals on the mainland.

AB412SP R-02 303sq, Dutch Helicopter Command

 AB412SP R-02 of N° 303sq, Dutch Helicopter Command of the host nation The Netherlands in action.

For the SAR-meet, several SAR helicopters and crews were invited. At the start of the SAR-meet these were the participants:

-S-61N G-BDOC Bristow Helicopters, civil, Dutch Coastguard

-Sea King Mk41 89+70, German Navy

-Sea King Mk48 RS02, Belgium Air Force

-AB412SP R-02 303sq, Dutch Helicopter Command

-B412 146491 Canadian Armed Forces

-B412HP H2-32/32 15.HRB, Slovenian Air Force

-SH-14D 262 MARHELI/DHC, Dutch Helicopter Command

B412 146491 Canadian Armed Forces

B412 146491 of the Canadian Armed Forces

All European based helicopters flew to Leeuwarden airbase, the Canadian B412 was airlifted by a Canadian C-17 and after the meeting it was flown back to Canada, again in a C-17.

 The SAR-meet was a competition between the SAR helicopters and consisted of several items:

-navigation flight

-winch control

-bucket-transport in an obstacle track



One of the hardest tests, the bucket-transport in an obstacle track

A Media Day was organized by the Public Relations Office of Leeuwarden airbase on May 27th 2009. During this day, all helicopters would fly the bucket through the obstacle track. A bucket was filled with water and at the end of the obstacle track; the amount of spilled water was measured. During this day, a heavy wind put a lot of stress on the crews to manoeuver through the obstacle track. The Slovenian helicopter attached the bucket under the belly of the helicopter; while the other participants attached the bucket to the hoist, which could be manually controlled by the hoist-operator. This manual operation allowed the hoist-operator to guide the bucket though the course, which paid-off for the crews that decided for some manual control. The Slovenian helicopter had some problems controlling the bucket in the heavy wind that day.

B412HP H2-32/32 15.HRB, Slovenian Air Force

B412HP H2-32/32 15.HRB of the Slovenian Air Force

Sea King Mk41 89+70, German Navy

Sea King Mk41 89+70 of the German Navy

 After the last item, the scores could be calculated and these helicopter-crews won gold, silver and bronze:

1. Belgium: Sea King

2. Dutch: Coastguard S-61

3. German: Sea King

 SAR Meet 2009 participants

The overall winner, Belgian Air Component Sea King Mk48 RS02 prominently sits in the partcipants line-up at Leeuwarden airbase.

Thanks to the Leeuwarden PRO and the Dutch Helicopter Command PRO, for their assistance during the Media Day.


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© Joris van Boven (June 2009)

Last updated 06/06/09 09:23   Daniel Brackx