International Search And Rescue Meet 2010

Search And Rescue (SAR) is a service provided by all member states of the United Nations and comprises the search for and the provision of aid to persons, aircraft, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. How this service has to be performed is laid down in documents published by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), two specialised bodies of the United Nations. The implementation of those standardised rules and regulations, however, usually takes place at the national level, hence the existing differences in organisation, procedures and equipment. It is therefore of paramount importance for SAR units to become acquainted with the equipment, capabilities and operating procedures of other SAR providers. This applies especially for SAR services of neighbouring countries as they have to be ready and able to work together in case of major accidents or disasters. That is why international SAR exercises and meetings are organised on a regular basis.


In Europe, Flying SAR units gather once a year on the occasion of the International SAR Meet, which is organised on a rotating basis by the participating nations. A SAR meet consists of a number of contests allowing the different teams to improve their skills by learning from other competitors, whether they are pilots, navigators, flight engineers, medics or divers. The 2010 edition of the International SAR Meet was staged by 40 Squadron of the Belgian Air Component and took place at Koksijde Air Base from 17 till 21 May.



Two Belgian and six foreign teams participated in the 2010 International SAR Meet. Each team arrived on Monday 17 May with one helicopter and a complete flying, diving and medical crew. Three teams from the Czech Republic, France and the United Kingdom registered for the Meet, but had to call off at the last minute because of operational or technical reasons.



Home base

Helicopter type & serial n°


40 Squadron


Westland Sea King Mk.48, RS-03


Heli Flight Marine


Sud Aviation SA.316B Alouette III, M-2


Escadron d’Hélicoptères EH 01.067 “Pyrénées”


Aerospatiale SA.330B Puma, 1657/AX


Marinefliegergeschwader 5


Westland Sea King Mk.41, 89+52


83° Centro CSAR/15° Gruppo


Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican, MM81343/15-31


303 Squadron


Agusta-Bell AB.412SP, R-03


Escuadron 801 Salvamento


Aerospatiale SA.330J Puma, 1602/HD.19-7


3. Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza (3rd SAR Group)


Mil Mi-8RL, 627




Home base

Helicopter type

Czech Republic

243 Vrtulníková Letka (243rd Helicopter Squadron)


PZL W-3A Sokol


Flottille 35F

Hyères/Le Touquet

Eurocopter SA.365N Dauphin 2

United Kingdom

No. 22 Squadron


Westland Sea King HAR.3/3A


Seaking RS-03

 40 Squadron of the Belgian Air Component organised the 2010 edition of the International SAR Meet at its home base and became the Overall Belgian Winning Team of the competition. It participated with Sea King RS-03.

Alouette III M-2

The Heli Flight of the Belgian Marine Component participated with the venerable Alouette III M-2. The team won the Sea Survival contest.

Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican MM81343/15-31

 Because of strong adverse winds over France, it took Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican MM81343/15-31 of the 83° Centro CSAR 9 hours and 20 minutes and four stop overs in Pisa, Istres, Valence and Dijon to complete the journey from Rimini to Koksijde. The final hop between Dijon and Koksijde lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Aerospatiale SA.330 Puma 1657/AX & 1602/HD.19-7

Two teams were flying the Aerospatiale SA.330 Puma at this year’s International SAR Meet. 1657/AX of the French Escadron d’Hélicoptères EH 01.067 “Pyrénées” is an SA.330B, while 1602/HD.19-7 of the Spanish Escuadron 801 is an SA.330J.


The team with the best team spirit and the most colourful aircraft, nicknamed “Tweety” because of its mainly yellow colour scheme, was that of the Dutch 303 Squadron in Leeuwarden.

Mil Mi-8RL 627

Mil Mi-8RL 627 was the largest helicopter at the International SAR Meet 2010. It is a converted Mi-8S VIP transport helicopter.




The 40th Squadron of the Belgian Air Component and the Heli Flight of the Marine Component were home players and as such had the not inconsiderable advantage of knowing the area very well. That is why they participated out of competition in the different contests.

Pin-point navigation, impeccable on-top-timing, sharp look-out and alertness to inputs from the ground notwithstanding a very high workload are crucial in a SAR missions over sea as well as over land. Tuesday 18 May started with a navigation contest in which the different teams were challenged to prove their proficiency in all these skills. The exercise had a certain historic character too as it brought the crews over Flanders’ Fields and a number of World War I places of interest.

Good SAR crews not only have to master certain technical skills, but also have to think, act and perform as a team, hence the importance of teambuilding. Their speed, strength and cooperation were put to a test during the Highland Games on Tuesday afternoon. Although the event was based upon the Scottish original, it allowed some liberty as proven by the Escuadron 801 team which turned up as original Spanish señoritas! The competition was somewhat one-sided from time to time as the French team fielded among others a genuine tri-athlete.

The day was concluded with an international evening during which the teams presented some of their best and most famous national products. “Good wine needs no bush” applied to most titbits offered, but it is said that the home-made Polish vodka won the contest with flying colours.

Team spirit, speed and knowledge of survival equipment and techniques were judged during the Sea Survival competition on Wednesday morning, which took place in the beautiful setting of the open air swimming pool at the beach of Oostduinkerke-Bad. In three contests, divers and medics had to evacuate a wounded person by dinghy after splinting his broken arm, memorise a number of letters along a minutes long underwater trajectory but with only 50 seconds of oxygen at their disposal and, finally, traverse the swimming pool by dinghy without paddles.

One of the highlights of the SAR Meet was the winching competition at Koskijde Air Base on Wednesday afternoon. The first part of the contest started with the precision winching a bucket between obstacles and then putting it on a precisely indicated spot. Another bucket filled with water had to be picked up and moved over a distance without spilling too much of its precious content. A diver, winched down from the participating helicopter, was allowed to give instructions to the person handling the winch. During the second part of the test sandbags had to be dropped on top of the cover plates on the chimneys of an underground air raid shelter, a mission which was particularly difficult for teams with larger helicopters because of the important downwash created by the main rotor.

The day was concluded with an official prize-giving ceremony, followed by a formal dinner offered by the organising unit. Thursday was reserved for the social part of the International SAR Meet with a trip to the historic city of Brugge. On Friday morning all teams returned home.




Winning team

Overall International Winning Team

EH 01.067

Overall Belgian Winning Team

40 Squadron

Winching Contest

40 Squadron

Navigation Contest

Marinefliegergeschwader 5

Sea Survival Contest

Heli Flight Marine

Best Team Spirit

303 Squadron

Winner Highland Games

EH 01.067

Best Dress Highland Games

Escuadron 801

Best International Evening Boot

3. Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza

Bad Luck Award

83° Centro CSAR/15° Gruppo



Sea Survival

The Sea Survival Contest took place in a beautiful setting at the beach of Oostduinkerke-Bad. Although fun was important, the competition spirit resurfaced every time the starting signal sounded.


Winching Competition

During the Winching Contest teams operating medium sized helicopters experienced that precise winching of small objects like buckets is much more difficult than winching a person, mainly because of the turbulence created by the downwash of the main rotor. Seen here is the Polish team of the 3rd SAR Group (3. Grupa Poszukiwawczo-Ratownicza) from Krakow.


dropping small sandbags

The second part of the Winching Contest consisted of dropping small sandbags on the cover plates of chimneys of an air raid shelter. The French team of EH 01.067 in Cazaux is seen here hitting the target.


SAR Formation

The flying part of the International SAR Meet competition was concluded by a spectacular flyby in which all teams participated. The distance between the helicopters was about 40 metres for safety reasons because the flyby had not been practised before.


Belgian Winner

The Belgian Sea King Team received the prize for Overall Belgian Winning Team from the hands of the Koksijde Base Commander Colonel Bruno Havermans (second from right) and the 40 Squadron Commanding Officer Major Hans Heyvaert (far right).

 Overall International Winning Team

 The Overall International Winning Team of the SAR Meet 2010 is the crew of Escadron d’Hélicoptères EH 01.067 “Pyrénées”. It was awarded with a painting of a Belgian Sea King flying over the SAR Meet logo made of sand on the beach. The artwork was presented by local artist Kurt Basslé (standing, third from left).





Participants, VIPs and press people were reminded of the objectives of exercises like the International SAR Meet when the SCRAMBLE alert sounded through the hangar in between the prize-giving ceremony and the formal dinner. Like in the serial “Windkracht 10” on TV, technicians and duty crew ran to the standby rescue helicopter and in almost no time Sea King RS-02 was airborne, on its way for a SAR mission in Dutch waters. It was the crew’s second mission that day after the urgent evacuation of an injured fisherman in the early morning.


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 © Jos Schoofs (May 2010)



More pictures of the SAR Meet 2010 at the BAHA Forum





Last updated 22/05/10 08:21   Daniel Brackx