Dutch Coastguard, mostly used for high seas and oil platform work
I hope never to get into a situation where I need to be rescued by helicopter. But if I ever find myself on a boat in the middle of the high seas or on a mountain top and have no other way of getting out, than a helicopter isn't such a bad thing. And I now know that I can trust them. Those people on board know what they are doing.
Aerial photographs were taken from this helicopter
How do I know? Well, the Search and Rescue service of the Royal Netherlands AirForce exists 50 years this year and had an agility course set up, so helicopters of different countries could show their stuff! I only missed one: the Canadians. They were supposed to go up in the air at two, but for some reason the whole thing got changed around and in the end they were up by 1.30 and had finished by 1.45! I did see the rest though and was thorougly impressed.
I'm not sure which team this was: Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia? They had a distinct disadvantage though: their line was hanging in the middle of the helicopter and couldn't be manipulated, hence the two men watching everything and shouting orders to the pilot. They came last!
The first thing they had to do was pick up a bucket of water with a grappling hook hanging on the helicopter. They had to put the bucket down again behind a type of wall, pick it up again and fly on to the next obstacle: weaving between some sticks. Then an obstacle where they had to pass the bucket through the cut-out shape. They then had to deposit the bucket again and try and pull a small ring from the earth. As soon as that was over, the time stopped (it was also a competition). The team who had completed the course fastest ànd had the most water left in the bucket was pronounced the winner.
The grappling hook and the ring. When the ring was pulled out, orange smoke would come out, signalling the finish
In the morning the anoraks came out (plane/helicopter spotters) and in the afternoon it was the press' turn. They drew the short straw though: most of the press only got to see the Dutch who were last to compete. But it was good fun and I made plenty of photographs, albeit not with a nice camera like the spotters and/or the press.
The Canadian helicopter, the only one I missed...