Before we head out to the Desert I’m cornered by Sean, Gus and Hurls at the pre-race cocktail bash (it’s a hard life, but…)
“We were wondering what you were expecting to do this week?”
Because at the conclusion of last year, it was recommended that I be trained to “dual role”. That is, become sufficiently genned up on the search and rescue side of things that I could sit in either seat on a helo. Either in the back as a medic, or next to the pilot as the SAR crewman, liaising with Rally Control, managing navigation to and from incidents and being responsible for the safety of the medical team and patients while they work in and around the aircraft.
This is not a small undertaking, nor a small honour to be invited.
“I’m hoping to take on some dual role training, if possible…but if you need me as a medic I’m perfectly happy to take that on. Whatever’s needed.”
They explain a plan of action. We have four aircraft at our disposal. The first three will operate as standard search and rescue helos, while the fourth is commandeered by the press. The press aircraft spends most of its time chasing the race leaders, shooting film and photo for major sports networks.
However, in the past these aircraft have been under our jurisdiction, meaning that when they’re needed for medical or rescue response work, the press have to take a back seat or, in extreme cases be jettisoned at a crash site with some basic survival supplies and collected later.
“This year the press have their own helo, but we want a man on it just in case we need it. That crewman will liaise with SAR control and the press themselves, passing details of crashes and incidents to them so they can get exciting footage. If, however, we need more medics or more muscle on the ground at an incident, we’ll task that aircraft to back up teams to assist.
We were wondering if you’d like to take this on.”
I’m thrilled and terrified all at once. I spend the next day punching GPS coordinates into my phone, checking and rechecking procedures and protocols. Wayne sets me straight –
“If you fuck up, we all fuck up. We’re a team. We’ll look after you.”
I hope so…