Galileo SAR Meet 2021
From September 27 to October 1, the Galileo SAR Meet 2021 took place at Koksijde Air Base in Belgium. Several helicopters and more than 100 crew members from twelve different European countries participated in this international search-and-rescue (SAR) meeting. This edition of the SAR Meet was dedicated to the 60th anniversary of search-and-rescue (SAR) activities from the Koksijde Air Base and this in the year that the Belgian Air Force celebrated its 75th anniversary. In the past, the Koksijde Air Base already organized several SAR Meet events and the last one dates back to 2016. However, the transition from the legendary Sea King rescue helicopter to the ultra-modern NH90 NFH helicopter as well as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a pause of several years. Due to the many participants, the 2021 edition has become the largest SAR Meet ever. The main sponsor of this edition was Galileo, which is Europe’s global satellite navigation system that went live since 2016 and is also part of the International COSPAS-SARSAT program.
During this international search-and-rescue (SAR) meeting, European specialized SAR teams presented their helicopters, training, procedures and missions to each other with the aim of learning from each other's experiences. In this way it is hoped that rescue missions can be carried out even more efficiently, safely and quickly. The SAR Meet 2021 exercise consisted of three major parts: a symposium where resources and procedures were introduced to each other, a flight test where the crews' skills were put to the test, and a sports test where the crews' mutual cooperation was of great importance. Due to the busy schedule of this SAR Meet, the participating teams only flew on Wednesday, September 28.
During this flying day the teams had to perform a navigation exercise as well as a precision winching exercise. This exercise consisted of some difficult assignments such as picking up a bucket of water using the hoist cable and then maneuvering it through numerous obstacles while the helicopter was at a height of 20 meters. On the flying day, about 200 aviation spotters from Belgium and surrounding countries and people from the press were also invited to the Koksijde Air Base to see the flying skills of the various teams up close. At the end of the SAR Meet 2021 exercise, the best team received the highly deserved SAR Meet trophy. This year the SAR Meet trophy was won by the German Navy and their Sea King Mk.41 from the Marinefliegergeschwader 5 (MFG 5). At the end of the flying day, the aviation spotters and people from the press could enjoy an impressive SAR demonstration by the Czech Air Force and their PZL W-3 Sokol helicopter.
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens