It was supposed to have only been a demonstration — part of Saturday’s Vertical Challenge Helicopter Air Show at the San Carlos Airport in California. But reality intervened… and US Coast Guard Lieutenant Che Barnes had to call the air boss and say, “…we’re going to be running late.” “We heard on the radio about a vessel that saw the aircraft in the water and a gentleman trying to wade ashore,” said Barnes, the helicopter pilot. Barnes then headed for Redwood City, where a single engine Cessna had gone down in the water. The pilot and lone occupant on board that aircraft was spotted by a member of the Coast Guard auxiliary… trying to wade to shore in waist-deep water.
The helo crew quickly spotted the wrecked plane and its struggling pilot. Barnes’ rescue diver hit the water and helped the middle-aged victim into the rescue basket.
“The guy’s lucky, because I don’t think it was a very smooth landing,” Barnes told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He had a ways to go if he was going to walk to shore. That water’s really cold, and he was out there I’m not sure how long.”
“We were just talking about how lucky he was,” Barnes added. “In this case, we happened to be airborne when he was noticed.”
Hiller Aviation Museum hosted the Vertical Challenge Helicopter Air Show — billed as the country’s largest all-helicopter air show — to educate the public on how helicopters affect our daily lives. Dozens of demonstrations were scheduled at San Carlos Airport (SQL) to showcase the versatility of rotorcraft, in everything from traffic and news reporting, to the defense of our country, to life saving rescues… a point that was brought home Saturday by Barnes and his crew.
And as for that rescue demonstration back at San Carlos? Well, the rescue meant the Coast Guard crew had run out of time for that. Instead… they did a fly-by at the air show… and they wowed ’em. Having learned what happened, folks in the crowd waived wildly as Barnes and crew flew majestically along the flightline.
“Everyone was waving,” said Barnes. “It was neat. It was a good feeling. It was good day for the Coast Guard.”