Air Station Kodiak aviators to receive HAI “Salute to Excellence” award

KODIAK, Alaska – The Helicopter Association International announced Monday the “Salute to Excellence” award winners for 2010 recognizing a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HH-65 helicopter crew for the Eurocopter Golden Hour award which will be presented at the HAI “Salute to Excellence” banquet Feb. 22, 2010 in Houston Texas.

Lt. Jason Smith, pilot, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts, aviation maintenance technician, stationed in Kodiak along with Lt. Greg Gedemer, pilot, and Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Thiessen, aviation survival technician, now stationed at Barber’s Point, Hawaii, won this award for their heroic rescue of a crewman from the fishing vessel Kodiak suffering from a severe head injury, 90 miles west of Cold Bay, in blizzard conditions Jan. 30, 2009.

Faced with low clouds, limited visibility and severe icings conditions, the helicopter crew navigated around 90 miles of islands and rocks covered in clouds and snow using GPS and radar to transit safely to the fishing vessel.

Once on scene, the crew faced the challenge of hoisting the crewman from the pitching and rolling vessel. With high antennas and rigging on the Kodiak, the hoist had to occur 75 to 100 feet above the vessel.

On the first hoisting attempt, the rescue swimmer was lowered, but due to blizzard conditions and the position of the aircraft he hit the vessel’s crane before aborting. The helicopter crew then found a safer hoisting location away from the crane and other obstacles.

The second hoist was successful and after rescuing the crewman, the helicopter crew battled blizzard-like conditions to transfer the patient to Cold Bay emergency medical personnel.

The “Salute to Excellence” Awards program, now in its 49th year, recognizes outstanding achievement performed by individuals or companies in the international helicopter community. For information about the 2010 “Salute to Excellence” Awards banquet and ceremony, visit

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