Lifesaving NC HART air rescue program adds aircraft and increases capability through cross-training

Last Updated on September 8, 2019 9:03 am

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Helicopter-Aquatic Rescue Team, known as NC HART, is growing with additional aircraft and training for its crews. 

With the addition of two Bell 407 helicopters recently acquired by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the number of participating NC HART aircraft is growing to eight.   

“The new aircraft will allow us to soon provide rescue services from our western hangar,” said Sgt. Mat Tribula, chief pilot for the Highway Patrol.  The Highway Patrol now has two Raleigh-based Bell 407s and one based in Salisbury where it will serve law enforcement and rescue needs in Western North Carolina.   With the new aircraft, Tribula said the patrol expects to have at least two helicopters and aircrews available to respond after large-scale storms like hurricanes.

For many years, NC HART has operated as three programs within one, with a Raleigh-based Highway Patrol helicopter serving eastern North Carolina, National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopters based at RDU Airport serving the central part of the state, and Salisbury-based National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters serving western counties.  Rescue technicians were trained to operate on only the one aircraft type serving their region.  Rescue technicians are now beginning to cross-train on other aircraft types, with the goal of having all rescuers qualified on all three aircraft types. 

“Cross-training will provide more flexibility when assigning resources and personnel to rescue missions while increasing the proficiency of our crews and NC HART’s overall response capacity,” said NC Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. 

NC HART is a joint military-civilian program that partners aircraft and aircrews from the North Carolina National Guard and North Carolina State Highway Patrol with rescue technicians employed by fire departments and rescue squads from across the state.  North Carolina Emergency Management provides a portion of the funding, along with training and program management.  Local first responders can request assistance from NC HART when needed for specialized air rescues.  In the past, NC HART has successfully rescued people from remote mountain locations, swollen rivers and streams and from major floods caused by hurricanes and tropical storms.

“North Carolina’s HART program is known as a national leader, and other states have sought input and guidance from our team when building theirs,” said North Carolina Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “Adding these new aircraft and cross-training our rescuers will increase NC HART’s lifesaving capability.”

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