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Trusting my life to a horseshoe-shaped sling

By West Briton  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

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THE sound of the rotor blades start to cut the air as I approach the Sea King. I jump in and find my place in one of the four blue canvas seats at the rear of the aircraft.

There's nothing glamorous about the interior of these huge 17-metre machines originally designed to detect submarines. At the tail is a stretcher and next to it is a fully equipped medical pack complete with a defibrillator and a full set of drugs to give patients the best possible chances of survival on their way to hospital.

To my left, sits winch operator Watts who is also responsible for planning and navigation with maps covering the whole of the UK.

Opposite to him, next to the side sliding door sits winch man and paramedic Penrose followed by another longer row of nine seats.

As the aircraft starts to move it is almost impossible to tell when we are airborne.

After a short while the Sea King takes its position 20 metres above the naval base.

As it hovers I am told through the radio communications system integrated into my helmet that winch man Penrose is ready to give us a demonstration how to enter and exit the machine.

Then it's my turn.

A yellow horseshoe-shaped sling is placed over my head and fitted under my arms.

I am cut off the radio system and now fully relying on the crew's experience and the earlier brief.

The sling is attached to a winching cable which is connected to a motor-driven machine designed to manoeuvre casualties. The harness pulls tighter around my body, I am being pulled fractionally upwards and then outwards before being lowered down.

I remember to keep my arms next to my body while heading towards the ground and a few seconds later my legs touch terra firma.

Before I know it I am on the move again as I am now being winched back up to the aircraft together with winch man Penrose. As our feet leave the ground he wraps his legs around me for a bit of extra security, I think.

Seconds later we are faced with the welcoming sight of the open side door; I am helped in the cabin, the door is slammed shut and we are off again.

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