GFS Sichuan Disaster Relief Operation
Government Flying Service

Exemplary Services@Gov
2009

Fearless of Environmental Changes Uniting Disaster Relief Forces

Within five days of the devastating May Twelfth earthquake in Sichuan, a pioneering party from the Government Flying Service (GFS), made a swift assessment of the situation and rapidly deployed to Sichuan to assist in the relief work. The crew members were all commended for their total determination throughout the operation, but equally important factors in their success were their professional judgment and solid teamwork. These factors, combined with their mutual understanding ensured that their missions were completed safely despite the constraints of time and resources.

Professional Judgment Wisely Applied by Front-line Crew

The missions were full of uncertainties and challenges: various environmental factors resulting from the disaster including unmarked cables which were dangerous and difficult to be seen, other aircraft flying simultaneously to carry out their search and rescue efforts, and, constantly changing flying conditions due to the high altitude mountainous meteorology. In addition to communications considerations with the other mainland rescue teams, crew members also had to make professional decisions, using only their experience based on limited information obtained from local sources. For instance, Captain Bowie FUNG Po-yin, Acting Senior Pilot (Line) of the GFS, had one particularly challenging rescue mission. When he arrived at the rescue scene, he found that his team's efforts were made even more difficult due to a precipitous landscape of deep valleys packed with electrical cables, and so he took some photographs for detailed study with other crew members upon returning to their base. Later on he found that the obstacles and electrical pylons on one of the cliffs had collapsed because of a massive landslide so the cliff face could actually be used as a reference flight path for a slow descent into the valley, and so his team eventually succeeded in rescuing all the victims from this particular incident. "Although we had never encountered a similar environment before, we had accumulated experience from previous training and diversified flying missions, therefore we were able to make an effective judgment." Within the 21 days of operations in Sichuan, 26 search and rescue missions were carried out, and 96 trapped disaster victims were rescued.

When carrying out a rescue mission, the pilot and his aircrewman must maintain their vigilance at all times and act very cautiously and coherently, so as to ensure that the operation can be accomplished safely and quickly. Mr. HO Fung-cheung, Acting Aircrewman Officer II, likened the collaborative relationship between the pilot and the aircrewmen as one between the blind man and the cripple in the story about their helping each other to escape from the scene of a fire. "This kind of mutual trust could never be developed overnight. It depends entirely on the rapport we've built up through taking up rescue missions together over more than ten years."

A Solid and Sound Support Team as Backing of Rescue Efforts

Hong Kong dispatched the large-sized Eurocopter Super Puma AS 332 L2 helicopter equipped with rescue hoists to carry out rescue operations in the mountainous areas of Sichuan. In addition to professional rescue equipment, the efforts of the supporting personnel provided strong backing for front-line relief operations. Captain Ardis TANG Sing-tung, Senior Pilot (Helicopter Search and Rescue), frankly pointed out, "Our engineering staff's professional support greatly enhanced our front-line crew members' confidence in facing the formidable relief work in the mountainous areas of Sichuan."

Mr. Kin CHOW Kin-hoi, Aircraft Engineer (Radios and Autopilot), and Mr. Jimmy KWAN Sing-wan, Aircraft Engineer (Airframe/Engine), were responsible for the work of aircraft maintenance and engineering equipment for the operation. Since "Preventive Maintenance" is of particular importance to aircraft, the two officers carried out careful inspection and maintenance of the complex helicopter before and after flight. During the deployment, they were on standby at all times, arranging for equipment and making continuous assessments according to the operational demand, whilst at the same time maintaining close contact with the GFS headquarters in Hong Kong, so as to ensure that the helicopter was in its best condition to face the challenges of long-term disaster relief work.

The GFS fully demonstrated its professionalism in the Sichuan Earthquake relief work. Left to right: Mr. Ivan CHAN Ka-cheung, Aircrewman Officer III, Captain Ardis TANG Sing-tung, Senior Pilot (Helicopter Search and Rescue), Mr. Philip HO Fung-cheung, Acting Aircrewman Officer II, Mr. Jimmy KWAN Sing-wan, Aircraft Engineer (Airframe Engine), Captain Bowie FUNG Po-yin, Acting Senior Pilot (Line), and Mr. CHOW Kin-hoi, Aircraft Engineer (Radios and Autopilot).
Front-line crew members responded to changing environmental conditions with their professional judgment.
The solid and sound support team provides strong support for the relief work.
Relief missions were successfully accomplished with the combined efforts of the pilot, the aircrewman and the engineering staff