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NAS Whidbey Island Menu


Search and Rescue

About Us

NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue is a one of a kind rescue unit. With a team consisting of 2 MH-60S helicopters, 10 pilots, 10 Rescue aircrewmen and 3 SAR Medical Technicians (SMT’s) we are the premier in Navy Search and Rescue.
Our pilots and aircrew are highly trained in both overwater and mountain rescue including helicopter rappel, hoist and mountain landing. We can conduct day or night operations and have night vision goggle capability.
Our primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, we also work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. SAR typically maintains either a 15-minute or a 30-minute alert posture in order to fulfill our mission.

For SAR Emergencies:

NAS Whidbey Island Operations Duty Officer
For Training, Scheduling or Public Affairs:
(360) 257-6178

Commanding Officer
NAS Whidbey Island
ATTN: OPS/SAR Officer/N303
3730 N. Charles Porter Ave.
Oak Harbor, WA 98278

New Check-In

Received orders to Whidbey SAR? Welcome to the team! You are joining a unique unit. Because of our alert status requirements, there are suggested guidelines for where you should live on the Island. For information on our operations, duty standing schedules and training please contact the unit at (360)-257-6178.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Who do we support?
o NAS Whidbey Island Tenant Commands
o US Coast Guard
o USAF Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC)
o Local Sheriffs
o Park Rangers
o Local Volunteer Organizations
o Anyone in Legitimate Danger (With C.O. Approval)

What information do you need from our agency to launch a mission?
We need to know as much information as you can provide including, if available, what agency is requesting assistance, the type of emergency, the situation, location/altitude, terrain, weather in the area, destination to take the victims, whether the emergency is life-threatening or not, and any other pertinent information. Patient information, if available, should also indicate if the patient has been treated or not, if he/she is stable, ambulatory or not, and severity of injuries sustained. The person answering the phone will get your number and call back after getting authorization to launch the helicopter at which time the alert will be sounded.

What GPS Lat/Long format is best?
Our aircraft computers input for Lat/Long is in the format :
dd N / ddd W (d=degrees, m=minutes, N=north, W=west)

From time of request how long until crew gets the aircraft into the air?
It depends on our alert status. We stand a 30 minute alert Monday-Friday and a 60 minute alert Saturdays Sundays and holidays. The earlier you call us the quicker we can respond.

How fast can you get to the scene?
Assuming we have a good GPS point to fly to, a good rule of thumb is to measure the straight-line distance from NASWI to the scene, then divide that distance by 2 and that should be the number of minutes until we can get there from the time we launch (so don't forget to add 15 or 30 minutes as applicable for the alert). For example, we can get to a site 60 nm away in less than 30 minutes. This rule of thumb is based on 120 knots (138 mph). Usually we can fly faster than that, but headwinds can slow us down and tailwinds can speed us up.

How long can you remain on scene before having to refuel?
This is a complex question. Our normal fuel load allows us to fly for 3½ hours. Depending on how much fuel was expended getting to the location and where the nearest airfield is that we can refuel, our loiter time can vary significantly. We will give you a good estimate once we get on scene as to how much time we will be on scene and update you as time progresses.

What is your callsign?
We have two aircraft with callsigns "FIREWOOD 75" and "FIREWOOD 58". Even if you forget, we will answer to "navy helicopter" or "rescue helicopter" as well. Our birds are recognizable by the paint scheme. The aircraft are painted navy grey with orange doors and markings (See Photo).

What requirement do you need for a landing zone day or night?
We can fly day or night in weather as low as 500' ceiling with 1 mile visibility. We always have a swimmer and hoist capability. We cannot land in the water or water taxi.
During the day we can land in some pretty tight LZ's (as small as 80'x90') -- something we practice regularly. Obviously larger areas are best. We can land on sloped terrain up to 6 degrees nose-down, 9 degrees nose-up, and 12 degrees cross slope. If landing is not an option, we can recover via our hoist with 200' of cable, capable of hoisting up to 600 lbs. We also have the ability to rappel our crewmen, including our SAR medical technicians (SMTs - roughly the same level of care as a paramedic), up to 215' to package the patient in a litter or hoisting harness, and short-haul (transport by a rope hung from the helicopter) the patient to a suitable site for loading into the aircraft.

Are you available for night operations?
Our night overland capability is limited by the following from our base policy and procedure which states the following:
“Operations in mountainous areas for either military or civilian emergencies are restricted to visual meteorological conditions (VMC) in the terminal area.”
In other words, SAR missions may be flown at night into mountainous terrain but only if we can safely transit to and from the area of the emergency and the weather on-scene is at least 1000 foot ceilings with 3 miles of visibility. However, each mission to be flown at night in mountainous terrain must be approved on a case by case basis by the Commanding Officer of NAs Whidbey Island.
Night rescues are inherently more dangerous than daytime rescues. The earlier we get the call, the better chance we have of rescuing before dark.
We can land at most hospitals including Harborview, day or night.
We are Night Vision Goggle (NVG) capable.

What is your preferred VHF radio frequency for air to ground communications?
We have a very capable radio suite with this aircraft and can talk on just about every aviation and marine frequency in the VHF/UHF bands, so as long as you let us know what frequency we can reach you, we should be able to talk to you. We try to keep it simple by using State SAR common freq - 155.160 MHz (Washington State-wide SAR Frequency - Police Band).
Each aircraft has 2 UHF/VHF Radios
Radio frequencies covered (excluding offsets):
30.000-87.975 MHz (FM)
118.000-135.975 MHz (AM)
136.000-155.975 MHz (AM/FM)
156.000-173.975 MHz (FM)
225.000-399.975 MHz (AM/FM)
Receive only 108.000-117.975 MHz (AM)
How many patients can you transport?
12 seated passengers or 3 Litters + medical gear.
What medical capabilities do you provide?
Medical Capabilities of our SAR Medical Technicians (SMT's):
Advanced Life Support
Advanced Cardiac Life Support
Advanced Pediatric Life Support Neonatal
Advanced Life Support
Equipment-Defibrillator and AED, O2/Portable Respirator, O2 Warmer, Obstetrics Kit, O2 Sat/ PROPAC, Ked, Sager, Bear Blanket Warmer
(Flight Surgeon as situation dictates)


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