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Monday, October 25, 2004

Helicopter Exercises

Helicopter on training exercise in El Palmar

A couple of times recently, the hill next to my house in the valley of El Palmar, near Buenavista, Tenerife, seems to have been used for what I can only assume were training exercises of some kind. We've also seen spectacular flying displays when these "little birds" swoop into irrigation tanks, then take off, vertically (with all that weight in a bag) to carry water to the site of a local fire.

One time, I actually got slightly wet watching as one helicopter passed no more than 30 feet above my roof as it banked round to go from the source of water down in our valley to a fire in the next, but this is the first time I've managed to get any half-decent photos.

In an operation identical to another we witnessed recently, this helicopter first passed and briefly hovered as a half dozen or so people, all wearing vivid yellow tops, alighted onto the top of the hill. The helicopter took off & circled. The yellow people walked 50 yards or so and the helicopter landed to pick them up again.

Anyway, seeing the angle at which he'd landed, I knew he had to take off in my direction, so I rushed out with the camera.

Now, admittedly the valley floor goes down quite a way lower than you can see from this angle, but having taken off from the top of the hill, the helicopter then dropped right down towards the valley floor that, by the second shot (and it went much lower before pulling up), my stomach was in my mouth. He then had to bank right pretty sharply in order to avoid a) the power lines b) bringing me lots of guests for coffee.

Five lives were already lost in this tragic accident in Gran Canaria in March of this year, when a rescue helicopter, carrying injured from a bus accident, plus pilot and medical attendants, became entangled in power lines as it tried to leave from a mountainous location. 

My total admiration goes out to these pilots for what they have to achieve here. But I think these events show that we urgently need major investment in moving those cables, both to recuperate the image of the landscape and to make their jobs easier & lives safer.

[Update] I have confirmed that these were indeed training exercises for rescue operations. And my neighbour was also watching and I wasn't the only one to think that the chopper decsended a mighty long way down into the valley floor!
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