Sikorsky, January 17, 2001 - STRATFORD, Conn. - Two Sikorsky HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters took part in the record rescue.
A total of 26 survivors were flown to safety aboard the first helicopter, while eight were hoisted onto the second Jayhawk in the Dec. 17 mission.
Both aircraft exceeded the Coast Guard mission requirement for the Jayhawk, which calls for the helicopter to accommodate up to six rescuees.
Each aircraft also carries a crew of four. The 26 evacuees set a single-aircraft record for the Coast Guard HH-60J.
The helicopter crews will be honored by their service Jan. 17 at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. Sikorsky is honoring the crews with its Winged-S Rescue Award.
The award, symbolized by a gold winged-S lapel pin with "RESCUE" written within the company logo, is a badge of honor among civil and military helicopter pilots and aircrews around the world. It is awarded to aviators who take part in the saving of human life with a Sikorsky helicopter.
The stricken 600-foot cruise ship SeaBreeze I was 225 nautical miles east of Virginia, when the scramble alarm sounded at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. Within minutes, the airmen were headed for the ship in the first of two Jayhawk helicopters. On scene, the seas were running 30 feet and more, lashing the shipÕs deck and at times dousing the helicopters with salt water as survivors were hoisted aboard. The winds were 50 knots, gusting to more than 75 knots.
"This mission could not have taken place without the mighty Jayhawk," said Coast Guard Guard Lt. j.g. Craig Neubecker, co-pilot of the first Jayhawk. "It was able to get us there and back safely, and had the power to get the mission done despite the horrific weather and sea conditions. I said a lot of prayers before, during and after the mission, and one of them was to thank God that we were flying the HH-60J, because nothing else could have done the job."