A combat search and rescue element is usually included in Red Flag. The HH-60 Pave Hawk is the usual resource used whether from the locally based unit or from a visiting outfit. When you are set up for the jet action, the helos don’t tend to come anywhere near you. They depart perpendicular to the runways and then head off on course. Two things were different for me on this visit. At one point Paul and I were checking out some other areas when the Hawks launched. We were pretty much directly in the flightpath so we got a good look at the pair as they flew over and headed off to the ranges.
The other change was that on both days we were there, they turned early and flew out directly over our location at the Speedway en route to their exercise are. I hadn’t seen this before. I was surprised the first time and even more so the second. I assume this was good luck on our part to have them come so close but maybe they were actually following us rather than the other way around?
I was directly under the flightpath of an HH-60 Pave Hawk as it headed out on a mission. Looking up at the helo as it passed over, it was possible to see the feet of the crewman/gunner. What I didn’t realize until I looked at the photos afterwards was that he was waving at me! I wish I had waved back. Given the large weapon mounted to the side of the airframe that he uses in action, I am glad that waving is what he chose to do!
Two rescue helicopters were on show at Heli Fest. The 129RQW from Moffett Field had brought along one of their Pave Hawk helicopters while head the other way up the peninsula and you get the Coast Guard based at SFO with their MH-65 Dolphins. If you find yourself in need of helicopter based assistance in the Bay Area, one of these units will probably be sent to help you. The Coast Guard unit will be the first to respond. However, if you are further offshore, the Pave Hawk may be the one tasked. If they are training nearby, they may just be the easiest ones to send.
Whichever unit and aircraft it is, you will, no doubt, be really pleased to see them. Both helicopters were popular with the visitors. They had long lines of people waiting to take a look and talk to the crews. I was chatting with the Coast Guard guys about their planned departure time. They were way too optimistic. The line of people was still big when they originally planned to go. Eventually, they had to put someone in place to mark the end of the line. They were still turning people away but they needed to clean up, check the airframe and get going at some point!
The Pave Hawk did a nice job of taxiing out of the confined space in which it had been parked. Both of them made nice passes prior to heading off. The Dolphin is a sleek looking airframe so it looked pretty cool as it made its pass. Good job by both crews for having dealt with so many visitors during the day.