An overhead crane that enables trainees to simulate the stress of a helicopter ditching into the sea is in operation at Blackpool College’s Fleetwood Nautical Campus (FNC). The four tonne safe working load crane was installed by Britain’s largest industrial crane maker, Street Crane Company. The Campus is one of a handful of centres in the UK providing vital marine helicopter escape training for North Sea, military and emergency services personnel.
The safety training systems were designed by EDM, a company specialising in simulators for aviation training. EDM produced the module known as the helicopter under water escape trainer HUET. This replicates the body of a helicopter cab with the same arrangement of seating, seat belts, doors and glazing as a real helicopter. For safety the rear of the module is open for diver access.
FNC is a dedicated facility with a specially constructed pool where one metre waves, darkness and rain can be simulated. The crane spans the pool and side apron. Up to four trainees, with an instructor, strap themselves in before the pod is hoisted and moved out to the centre of the pool. From this position the HUET can be lowered onto the water, immersed in the water or immersed and rolled over. Trainees then have to unstrap themselves, put on respirators and make a safe exit. Besides the instructor in the HUET, divers in the water can intervene via an open end to the simulator and the instructor can also auto release all seat belts from his console if a trainee is at any risk.
"This is one of the most unusual applications that we have had for our cranes," explained Street Crane managing director Andrew Pimblett. "In engineering terms it is a relatively straightforward fixed position goal post crane with only lateral and horizontal movement. A single beam, supported on A frames, has an underslung hoist to hold the HUET. The unusual item is a dual coil spring that moderates the fall and allows the module to be suspended over the water before release at one metre above the water."