Since the cancellation of the Weather Channel television program “Coast Guard Alaska” the viewing public has been unable to take a first hand look at helicopters working in real world rescue operations. Showcasing the challenges faced by pilots and crew that operate in some of the most inhospitable and challenging environments in the world, each week, viewers of the cable television show that focused on the brave men and women serving in the United States Coast Guard, working in the icy tundra and churning oceans that surround coastal and inland Alaska, an area that spans over a million square miles of coverage area that Coast Guard Alaska is responsible for.
That changed in the last month, with two offerings recently announced. The first to be released as an online only offering, RedBull TV’s “The Horn”. The six part series featuring Swiss Alps based rescue operator Air Zematt, who operate two rescue bases near the bottom of the “Matterhorn,” the largest mountain in the Swiss Alps that stands 14,692 feet high and is the source of almost all of Air Zematt’s over five hundred calls for service each year. The Swiss rescue operation that flies sometimes twenty missions in a day, fly a mix of the Bell 429, Airbus Helicopters AS350, EC135 and SA 315 Lama show viewers the reality of their extremely busy days, their approach to safety and their constant training for missions that can range from responding to a broken leg to a body recovery of a climber who fell to their death during a failed attempt to reach the summit of the Matterhorn.
Watch a promo of Red Bull TV’s “The Horn”
“The Horn” is a show that showcases an extremely diverse mission and does a good job explaining why they do what they do on each mission and how they train constantly to be ready for missions that can involve anything from a simple patient transfer, to a complex mountain or hoist rescu
e, all while dealing with the rapidly changing weather in a location that sits a few miles from the Italian border and can go from VFR to IFR in minutes. As RedBull TV’s first foray into feature length shows, it is a solidly put together show by many accounts. With the exception of editing and continuity issues that were picked up quickly by helicopter industry professionals, the show is well received. Small continuity issues like using a stock twin blade Bell 206 sound effect as you see an EC135 cruise by the camera, to video of a Bell 429 taking off for the next “mission”, only to see the next in cockpit footage as the team discuss the next mission is inside the cockpit of an EC135 are but a small detractor to what is widely regarded as a great depiction of the challenges faced by those who fly in these complex areas and missions.
Watch a promo of the Travel Channel’s “Everest Air”
The second and more recent offering, about to air on Discovery Network’s Travel Channel is “Everest Air” a show that centers around a helicopter operation in the Himalayas, at the base of Mt. Everest. This show, anchored by Australian Jeff Evans, an adventurer, climber and medic in charge of high altitude rescue and response via helicopter from multiple areas around the base camp of Mt. Everest, the worlds tallest mountain, standing 29,035 feet and responsible for the deaths of countless climbers who now dot the landscape of the climb to the top of Everest as markers on the climb and a timely reminder of the consequences of a small mistake during a climb rated as the most deadly in the world, yet still drawing climbers in the hundreds every year to conquer one of the worlds most most dangerous locations.
Evans and his team of Sherpa’s, pilots and medics respond to calls for evacuation from climbers suffering injuries that range from broken bones, to life threatening hypoxia on a regular basis. Although the show has not yet aired in the US, it will again add to the offerings to showcase some of the most dangerous and difficult flying in the world, in one of the worlds most unforgiving locations. One thing is for sure, with these two new offerings, the industry will hopefully be better represented in regards to the safety that is an essential part of any flight than they are currently by the slew of Hollywood blockbuster movies that show helicopters in outlandish conditions, usually accompanied by what seems like the only soundtrack owned by movie producers when it comes to helicopters, the sound of a UH-1H Huey chopping through the sky. Regardless of the fact that to the dismay of all helicopter pilots that watch these movies that the sound is not remotely familiar to the five bladed MD helicopter seen on screen. But that’s Hollywood for you…..