Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) the oldest national observatory in the US became Ground Zero for Operation Helicopter Rescue.
When you work in science you must be prepared for everything. It is a common occurrence when studying the stars in the heavens to observe various shooting stars and meteors falling out of the heavens. Nothing quite prepared the staff at the observatory to become assistants and support staff for one military Black Hawk helicopter rescue and the repair of another.
On February 19, 2010 A National Guard Blackhawk helicopter took flight from the NRAO airstrip after being repaired Friday morning on its way to the crash site of a downed training Navy helicopter near the Randolph County line Greenbank, Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
The downed chopper was part of a training mission, carried 14 Navy personnel and three members of the West Virginia National Guard. It went down in more than four feet of snow.
Back to the story…
The National Guard Rescue copter landed at the observatory, because they were running out of fuel and needed minor repairs. After the emergency landing the crew ran into staff from the Observatory leaving for the day. Since the observatory has kitchen and dormitory facilities besides nearness to fire rescue services this chance landing became the ideal recovery and warm overnight facilities for the rescue mission. Scientists not only care about stars , but people too. The facilities were offered to the military for their use. There were 17 people needing rescue.
The National Guard used the NRAO offices as their main base of operation and a make-shift hotel in the 60 bed bunk house and chow hall on site. A cafeteria worker at the observatory, volunteered to prepare meals. She made lentil soup, chili, hot ham and cheese sandwiches and plenty of coffee. Six observatory employees offered their help in setting up the dorm to house the military personnel and worked with them on the search effort. By using sleds local search and rescue crews joined the National Guard and worked through the night to transported all 17 victims off the mountain.
The more severely injured were transported individually by sled with only a rescue worker. All others were transported down the hill in groups. The sleds met up with a small snow groomer, a track-wheeled vehicle used on ski slopes, which then took them to a larger groomer waiting nearby. The large groomer, which was outfitted with a heated rear section, transported the injured to a group of ambulances waiting about a mile
away from the Fire and Rescue team’s Snowshoe area station house.
By 12:30 p.m. Friday Mission Observatory Rescue was complete and all were safe.
“Thanks everyone for your help.” – Nature’s Crusaders
Excerpts and Image 1. courtesy of http://bit.ly/9Zd8Wi
Excerpts courtesy of http://bit.ly/aEpkzo
Image 2. courtesy of http://bit.ly/daKmwt