MENDOCINO CO., 5/18/17 — Wondering what those helicopters are flying above you? Well this weekend, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office along with their Napa counterparts will be hosting a multi-agency search & rescue helicopter training in the vicinity of Lake Mendocino, beginning Friday afternoon May 19 and continuing until the evening of Sunday, May 21, during daylight hours. This means there will be increased air traffic in the Ukiah Valley, and the South Lake Mendocino Wildlife area trails will have limited access while the training goes on.
The search and rescue training is co-sponsored by the Mendocino and Napa County sheriffs' departments as a joint training, similar to one held at Lake Mendocino in 2016. The training will include California National Guard (CNG), California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), Cal Fire, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, US Army Corps of Engineers and both the Napa and Mendocino County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams. The training is in response to a recent increase in search and rescue missions requiring aerial assistance, in order to help prepare emergency and law enforcement agencies for large-scale search operations that often take place in difficult, remote, and mountainous terrain.
The Mendocino Voice occasionally gets phone calls concerning helicopters flying overhead, and we're expecting increased air traffic around the county this summer, be it CalFire, the California Highway Patrol, or search & rescue planes. We'll post information from any agencies that notify us of their flight activities, such as the upcoming search and rescue training or PG&E fire safety surveys, and you can always contact us at [email protected] if you have a tip. But if you're able to see the helicopter, we've got some identification tips below.
One way to identify a helicopter is to look the tail numbers, which are a unique identifying number for each helicopter. If you're able to spot these, you can look up the number at the Federal Aviation Administration's registry to see what type of plane it is.
This weekend, according to the MCSO press release, the training may include "the National Guard CH47D Chinook, U/HH60 Blackhawk, UH72A Lakota, the Cal Fire UH1H Super Huey, and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Bell 407." You can check out a pretty comprehensive resource of different types of helicopters here. Noting the distinguishing features of the helicopter, including color and shape, can be very helpful in making an identification if you can't see the tail numbers.
There are also a variety of apps and website designed to help track commercial airline flights, but they may not include flight tracking information for private planes and helicopters. We haven't tested them, but you can check those out here. Several apps can tell you the distance of the plane from your location, and some also note the altitude and speed. Do you know of any that work well? Let us know!
Here's all the details on the upcoming training in the full MCSO press release:
Incident Number: Public Service announcement Helicopter Training Event, Lake Mendocino
Crime/Incident: Training Announcement
Location: Lake Mendocino & Ukiah Area
Date of Incident:
May 19 through 21, 2017
Time: Friday afternoon (5/19) through the evening hours of 5/21/17, daylight only.
Written By: Lieutenant Shannon Barney
Synopsis: The Mendocino and Napa County Sheriff’s Offices would like to announce a Search and Rescue Helicopter Awareness Training at Lake Mendocino this weekend. This training is sponsored by the Mendocino and Napa Sheriff’s Offices in cooperation with the California National Guard (CNG), California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), Cal Fire, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, US Army Corps of Engineers and both the Napa and Mendocino County Volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams. This training will start on Friday afternoon (5/19/17) and continue through Sunday evening (5/21/17).
In recent years California State Wilderness Search and Rescue professionals have seen an increase in extended search and rescue (SAR) missions in difficult-to-access, mountainous terrain, across California. These searches often require a large commitment of advanced SAR teams and significant logistical support that must be brought to the scene. These SAR missions are also often dependent on aviation resources to insert and extract teams and to be available to provide rescue support in the event of injured searchers or lost persons.
As a result California State SAR Coordinators, with the assistance of California Office of Emergency Services, developed a plan calling for more air assets to assist from cooperating agencies. These agencies include but are not limited to the California National Guard, Cal Fire, California Highway Patrol and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Air assets would typically assist in deploying or extracting resources to remote areas and or to provide medical extractions (hoist) to injured subjects, either the missing/lost persons or searchers. In 2016 a similar training was held at Lake Mendocino. This training was very successful and it was planned to expand the training to offer it to more SAR Teams across the state to better prepare the SAR volunteers to operate in or around the various helicopters that might respond to assist in SAR incidents.
In addition to Wilderness SAR missions these allied air assets can be called to assist other emergency response personnel during incidents involving emergencies, natural disasters and law enforcement missions. This assistance is provided as a mutual aid support system and can include: providing critical transportation of personnel, medical evacuation, general evacuation, logistical supply, searching from the air, and technical night search capabilities using Forward Looking Infrared cameras.
This Joint Training Effort will utilize helicopter resources and trainers to specifically train SAR teams in the capabilities of and safe operations of their respective helicopter platforms. These helicopters may include the following: the National Guard CH47D Chinook, U/HH60 Blackhawk, UH72A Lakota, the Cal Fire UH1H Super Huey, and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Bell 407.
Starting on the afternoon of May 19th the public will see an increase in helicopter operations related to this training exercise in the area of Lake Mendocino and the greater Ukiah Valley. For Safety reasons the area of the South Lake Mendocino Wildlife Area, including all hiking trails south and east of the Lake Mendocino Dam, will have limited access.