Helicopter demo at Meet the Fleet

A search and rescue demonstration by the U.S. Coast Guard was one of the highlights of Meet the Fleet.

The U.S. Coast Guard put on a helicopter search and rescue (SAR) demonstration last Thursday in Menemsha Harbor during the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust’s Meet the Fleet event. Air Station Cape Cod flew in an MH60 Jayhawk, one of six in the nation painted yellow to commemorate the coloring of Coast Guard and Navy helicopters from the mid-20th century.

As folks on pleasure craft docked along the transient dock and event visitors packed onto fishing vessels and the commercial wharf looked on, rotor wash kicked up mist and chop while the pilot lowered the aircraft and then kept it dead-steady. A rescue swimmer then descended into the water on a long cable, followed by another. As the Jayhawk pulled away from the harbor, one swimmer activated a daytime signal, colored smoke, while the other lit a nighttime signal, a flare. The Jayhawk swooped back in and hoisted both swimmers in a sling device called a strop. As the Jayhawk soared off, boat horns blared and the crowds broke into applause. 

“It was exciting for everybody,” Chilmark harbormaster Ryan Rossi said. Rossi, a Coast Guard veteran himself, said a helicopter demonstration like that is something folks rarely get to see up close like they did. 

The demonstration participants were Coast Guard aviation survival technicians Brendan Kiley, Christopher Moore, and Justin Munk, aviation maintenance technician Ricardo Molina, Lt. Commander Brian Kudrle, and Lt. Jeffrey Piazza, according to Station Menemsha officer in Charge Senior Chief Justin Longval and Lt. Nathan Mendes.

Air Station Cape Cod employs similar hoist techniques to make medical rescues from fishing vessels. In June and July alone, Air Station Cape Cod Jayhawks made seven medevacs from fishing vessels in the vicinity of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, according to Petty Officer Nicole Groll.