In an 18-hour effort on March 23-24, the crews of two all-weather search-and-rescue (SAR)-configured Sikorsky [LMT] S-92s and two Airbus AS332 Super Pumas rescued 470 cruise passengers of the MV Viking Sky, which had faltered in high seas off southern Norway near Hustavika after losing engine power.
That stretch of Norwegian coast is considered one of the most dangerous and has been the setting for many shipwrecks.
The four CHC Helicopter Norway-operated aircraft arrived on scene around 2:30 p.m. on March 23, a half hour after receiving a request from Hovedredningssentralen Sør-Norge (HRS), the Norwegian Joint Rescue Coordination Center for Southern Norway.
The rotorcraft have a number of SAR capabilities, including automatic flight control systems, which allow auto-hover.
The helicopters hoisted 15 to 20 passengers off the ship per mission, CHC said.
In addition to the four SAR aircraft, another S-92 transported extra crew members, who had volunteered to participate in their free time, to a nearby airport. Another Sikorsky S-92 at Brønnøysund was standing by on medevac readiness, CHC said.
After restarting three of its four engines early Sunday, the Viking Sky, accompanied by two tug boats, navigated safely into the nearby porte of Molde, where some 800 remaining passengers and crew disembarked.
During the cruise ship rescue mission, CHC Helicopter Norway responded to a second incident after engines on the cargo ship MV Hagland Captain lost power nearby in the same high seas. One helicopter was re-tasked along with a Norwegian Ministry of Justice SeaKing aircraft to provide support, and nine crew members were rescued, CHC said.
Six CHC Helicopter Norway crews from the Florø, Heidrun, Statfjord and Sola bases took part, according to CHC, including 12 pilots, six hoist operators, seven rescue swimmers, one system operator, two engineers providing support on the ground, and additional support from CHC Helicopter’s global operations center in Dallas, Texas.
Patrick Gerritsen, CHC Helicopter Norway’s chief SAR pilot, said in a statement that “the challenges of such a large rescue operation with all of its coordinating aspects were handled very well.”