Have you ever wondered what happens if you get sick, really sick, or seriously injured, when you’re at sea? This is what happens. Medivac. Your imminent life threatening condition aside for a moment, you need three things. First, the vessel you’re on needs to be within helicopter range. If your vessel is not within range, you’ll be praying that it’s fast because it needs to get you closer to shore quickly. The QE2 was famously fast, she had a cruise speed of 28 knots (using only seven or her nine engines) and her top speed was 32 knots. Considering she was built in 1969 this is impressive. As a comparison, the average big cruise ship travels around 21-24 knots.
The second thing you need is a skilled Captain who gives pinpoint accurate co-ordinates to the enroute helicopter. Not so simple when both ship and helicopter are moving. When ship and helicopter rendezvous he then needs to be keep his massive moving ship as still as possible so the helicopter can land. This is quiet an accomplishment in open seas. Third, and perhaps most important, you need a Top Gun calibre helicopter pilot who can land his flying ambulance on a tiny moving target. The Norwegian pilot who landed in this image was one such pilot. You can see from the deck markings that his landing target was only 10m (33ft) with almost no room for error. The vast open sea, distant horizon and small ship’s foredeck give a realistic sense of scale. Cruise ships look big when docked, however, once they are in open water they shrink significantly.
This image was taken during a drill. No-one injured or sick. The drill was executed flawlessly, as it happens, and filled me with confidence that I was in good hands should an emergency arise during my life at sea. Location: onboard ‘The World’ somewhere at sea, within helicopter range, off the cost of Norway