920th Rescue Wing Maj. Chris Ferrara Led Life-Saving Refueling Effort From Patrick Air Force Base
By Tech. Sgt. Jared Trimarchi, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs // January 20, 2020
The 920th RQW was alerted to fly a long-range search and rescue mission
BREVARD COUNTY • PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA – Maj. Chris Ferrara, HC-130N Combat King evaluator pilot, 39th Rescue Squadron, led the refueling efforts of a technical rescue from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida approximately 500 nautical miles off the east coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
He and approximately 80 Reserve Citizen Airmen and four aircraft from the 920th Rescue Wing successfully rescued two German citizens whose vessel caught fire.
The 920th RQW was alerted to fly a long-range search and rescue mission for the two men. One was reportedly burned from the waist down, and neither spoke fluent English.
Chris and his team immediately went to work planning the mission ensuring they could deliver a team of Guardian Angel Airmen to conduct life-saving care in the middle of the ocean with little time to spare.
After detailed planning ensuring they had working aircraft, enough fuel and crews, Chris and the teams arrived on scene and begin orbiting overhead to deploy a lifeboat, a team of five pararescuemen and several bundles containing medical equipment into the ocean.
Simultaneously, a freighter on the scene below motored a small boat toward the victims which allowed the pararescuemen to hoist the survivors on board the freighter while several of the others zoomed over to pick up the bundles of medical equipment that splashed down just after them.
Getting everything on target was only part of the challenge, Chris and the rest of the HC-130 crew would immediately turn-around to air-to-air refuel the helicopters with a slower airspeed and much smaller gas tanks, allowing them to make the trip.
Four aerial refuelings later, two on the way out to sea and two on the way back to Patrick Air Force Base, logging 1,000-miles per aircraft, and launching an additional tanker as a backup, the mission was complete–the victims were treated and transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Without Chris’s leadership, critical thinking skills and calm under pressure the mission would have been hampered.