France Ministry of Defence, August 30, 2018 - On August 18, the French Navy 35F detachment, part of French armed forces deployed in French Polynesia, used the Dauphin to carry out the single most distant evacuation operation ever conducted by this aircraft.
With a total of 14 flying hours for 3,426 km, the helicopter made the equivalent of a flight between Helsinki and Gibraltar to help a patient in distress.
"In the case of a remote atoll", explains Captain Gilles, the officer on duty that day, "we have to make sure we can refuel the helicopter while trying to evacuate the patient as quickly as possible."
Two aircraft, a helicopter and and fixed-wing airplane, were used together to accomplish this mission. The detachment of the 35F Flotilla based in Tahiti, which operates Dauphin AS365N3+ helicopters, had thus ensured the recovery of the patient on the atoll to bring him back to Moruroa where a Guardian airplane was located to complete the evacuation towards Tahiti.
On the morning of 19 August, the 35F alert crew took off from Tahiti to cross the long transit to the remote atoll. The Dauphin helicopter landed and refueled at Fakarava, then Hao and finally Moruroa where it joined the Guardian plane of the 25F Flotilla, which carried on board a medical team and the necessary equipment for the treatment of the patient as well as two technicians of the 35F detachment responsible for the operation of the helicopter.
The later reached Tenarunga at sunset. Thirty or so people welcomed the helicopter with a landing zone of opportunity near the few homes. The doctor and the nurse then proceeded to the treatment of the patient. Two hours later, the helicopter was able to leave the atoll with the patient stabilized and secure in a stretcher under the supervision of the medical team.
The Guardian aircraft ensured the communications and proceeded to the final transport of the medical team and the patient to the Faa'a military aviation group in Tahiti. The patient was then transported by ambulance to Taaone Hospital.
Staying in Moruroa, the crew of the 35F spent the night there to rest after this long journey. "We must also consider all the logistical aspects", says Commander Gilles. "From crew rest and feeding these evacuations in the middle of the Pacific require detailed preparation".
The next day, the crew returned to Tahiti in the late afternoon after refuel stops at Hao and Fakarava. The success is primarily based on the team work and a a seamless coordination is imperative given the vastness of Polynesian territory and its 118 islands and atolls in the area of responsibility of the armed forces in French Polynesia.
The 900 soldiers of the armed forces of French Polynesia constitute a pre-positioned joint maritime organization which, with the Armed Forces in New Caledonia (FANC), has for main mission to ensure the sovereignty of France on the "Pacific theater".
It allows France to be able to ensure its sovereignty, including in its remote territories, to intervene in case of natural disaster but also to fight against growing threats such as illegal trafficking and to animate regional military cooperation with all countries bordering the Pacific area.