On any given day in Sierra Nevada, a group of hikers were walking through this incredible national park until, while walking through a very remote and narrow area, one of them slipped and fell a few meters, remaining completely immobile.
They immediately call 112 to report what happened and request help. Once the call is received, the emergency services contact the Special Mountain Intervention Rescue Group (GREIM) of the Civil Guard of Granada who, making a three-way communication, coordinate with the Civil Guard Air Service, based at Granada Airport.
In a matter of minutes, the CUCO 308 picks up two members of the GREIM. The so-called “mountain angel” does not take long to arrive at the scene and, with the utmost professionalism and speed, they return to take the injured person to the reference hospital. Mission accomplished!
This story summarizes in a few lines a rescue like the ones that the Air Service of the Civil Guard of Granada carries out frequently and after which there is a quiet, meticulous, professional and highly dedicated work of the components of the Granada Air Unit.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The origins of the current Air Service of the Civil Guard go back to the studies on means and needs carried out by the Civil Guard at the end of the 60s. These concluded in 1971 with the idea of incorporating helicopters. In 1973, the Civil Guard created the Helicopter Section to make up for the shortage of air units that supported the work of ground units. This section was initially made up of twenty agents and two units of the MBB BO-105 model.
First, the unit was based in Cuatro Vientos and, later, it began to share quarters with the Air Mobile Forces of the Army, at their base in Colmenar Viejo (Madrid). The BO-105s carried out their first real mission, public order, in Pamplona in June 1973. At the end of 1973 the force ordered two more units of BO-105.23.
In 1978, the service moved to the Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base (Madrid), also changing its name to the Civil Guard Helicopter Group (AHEL). In 1983 there were already twelve BO-105 helicopters and one BK-117. The SAER apparatuses were then mainly dedicated to anti-crime and anti-terrorist work, search for missing persons, evacuation and rescue services (especially in the mountains and at sea). Organizationally, the decentralization process began in 1983 with the creation of the Logroño Helicopter Unit to support the fight against terrorism.
Over the last few years, it has resulted in a deployment based on the idea of bringing air support closer to the units and the service.
UHEL-24 – CUCO 308
On November 11, 2011, the Granada Helicopter Unit was created, as a result of the growing demand for humanitarian services in Sierra Nevada, as a winter sports center, and with the main objective of carrying out mountain rescues throughout Andalusia.
This new Unit assumed part of the demarcation that until then was the responsibility of UHEL-21, based in Seville. The Granada Air Unit began with a staff of five pilots and three mechanics. Currently, it is made up of eleven components: six pilots, four mechanics and a civil guard who is in charge of bureaucratic tasks. This Unit is commanded by a Civil Guard officer.
The Granada Air Unit, baptized as UHEL-24, has a modern EC-135 P3 helicopter, specifically configured to operate in high mountain environments. Said helicopter is based at the Federico García Lorca airport in Granada-Jaén.
The EC-135 P3 has a modern and sophisticated design, with a spacious cabin and ergonomic crew layout. In addition, it has an advanced navigation system and a wide variety of state-of-the-art electronic systems that allow it to fly in any weather condition.
The Eurocopter EC-135 P3 is a twin-turbine helicopter that has a payload capacity of up to 1,300 kg, a top speed of 287 km/h and a range of up to 640 km. Likewise, this helicopter has an advanced avionics system, which allows greater safety and efficiency in carrying out missions.
In order for the CUCO 308 to operate in high mountains, it lightens its weight by emoving a lot of avionics, but this does not compromise flight safety at all. It also has other equipment to lift dead load.
One of the biggest challenges that the Civil Guard faces in its rescue operations is the precise location of the person in danger. In many cases, accident victims are in remote areas where there is no mobile phone signal or internet, making it difficult to locate their location. when it happens for this, rescue teams must use visual search or witness information to find people in distress.
Once the person in distress has been located, rescue teams must assess the situation and decide the best way to evacuate. Sometimes the helicopter can land directly on the spot, while there are times when the use of ropes and harnesses is necessary. The Civil Guard uses advanced air rescue techniques to guarantee the safety of people in danger and of the rescuers themselves.
In emergency situations, every second counts. The rapid response capacity of the Civil Guard, as well as the cutting-edge technology used by the Civil Guard, are key to guaranteeing the safety of people in danger. That is why Civil Guard helicopters are a vital tool in emergency situations in remote or difficult-to-access areas, where ground transportation is not possible.
CUCO 308 MAINTENANCE, A VITAL PART OF THE EQUIPMENT
The maintenance personnel of the Civil Guard helicopters play a fundamental role in the proper functioning and safety of these aircraft. These professionals are responsible for maintaining and repairing Civil Guard helicopters, ensuring that they can operate safely and efficiently in critical situations.
The Civil Guard has a team of maintenance technicians who are in charge of carrying out regular inspections and repairs to the helicopters. They are also responsible for the installation and testing of avionics systems, engines, hydraulic systems and electrical systems in helicopters.
In addition, they must meet rigorous training and certification requirements. They must have specialized knowledge in mechanics, electricity and electronics, as well as diagnostic and troubleshooting skills. It is just as necessary that they are up to date on aviation safety and maintenance regulations.
The Civil Guard uses a preventive maintenance approach on its helicopters, which means that regular inspections and repairs are carried out before a failure occurs. This reduces the risk of accidents and ensures that the helicopters are always in optimum condition to be used in emergency situations.
To do this, technicians use diagnostic tools and specialized software to identify any problems or failures in the helicopter. Once the problem has been identified, the maintenance staff works to fix it immediately.
Apart from the maintenance and repair of the helicopters, they are also responsible for the management of spare parts and supplies. This involves keeping an inventory and placing orders to ensure that spare parts are available at all times.
A UNIT THAT INSPIRES
UHEL 24 has been a key unit in times of emergency, intervening in numerous rescue operations in the mountains, providing medical assistance and evacuation to people in danger. In addition, it has provided support to the land units of the command posts that have requested it.
But what makes UHEL 24 special is not just its high-risk missions, but also the team spirit and dedication of its members. Each of them is a highly trained and motivated professional, committed to their work and to the mission of the unit. And yet, they all work together as one force, supporting each other and putting the well-being of the people they serve first.
As a citizen, it is reassuring to know that there are units like UHEL 24, who are willing to risk their lives to protect the lives of others. It’s inspiring to see how teamwork, dedication and passion can achieve great things.