Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Airplane Geeks: Airplane of the Week: Call Sign SANDY: Operation SANDY!

In March of 1946, the Air Rescue Service was formed as part of the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Forces.  Originally, the mission was just for the CONUS or Continental United States.  The ARS had expanded by 1949 to include worldwide missions.
Korea would force the ARS to refine its techniques and eventually 996 missions were completed under combat conditions. A total of 9,898 U.S. and U.N. forces were rescued by the Korean truce.  
With the advent of spaceflight, the ARS had a mission added of recovery of NASA’s manned capsules.  This mission changed the name to the Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Service, or ARRS.   It would still be part of MAC or Military Airlift Command  
It was after this time that the command upgraded its equipment to the Kaman HH-43b Husky.  The Husky was the primary recovery helicopter.  The Kaman had Contra-rotating twin rotors that overlapped.  The Husky’s grandson is the K-Max, now serving in Afghanistan.  The Husky in ARRS service was the helicopter with the highest number of rescues during the Vietnam War.
The Husky had a 75-mile range and needed to be replaced.   The Sikorsky CH-3C was the first rescue Helo and primarily stayed stateside to support NASA.  From the CH-3C, a combat search and rescue copter was created—the HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant.”  What made the HH-3E improved was the ability to bring more people aboard and was one of the first helicopters to be capable of refueling from a Lockheed HC-130. The Marines took the H-3 and grew it into the CH-53 Super Stallion.  The USAF followed suit with the HH-53 “Super Jolly.” 
To protect the recovery team of the HC-130’s and the “Jolly Greens,” usually the A-1H  Skyraider would provide top cover.  The Spad would be able to loiter with the Helos   orbiting above.  In the CSAR, or Combat Search and Rescue, those who provided cover or located the downed airmen always used the call sign SANDY.   
Much like the Wild Weasels, there was no more important mission to Skyraider pilots than flying a “SANDY” Mission.  It was to save a life.   
 After the war as usual, there was a forced drawdown and CSAR was one of the first things on the list to disappear.  The replacement for the piston-driven SPAD was the A-10A Warthog.  In January, 1991, during Desert Storm, a pair of Warthogs from the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, also known as the Flying Tigers based on their lineage back to the American Volunteer Group, flew cover over the rescue of a downed Tomcat pilot.  The helicopter was an MH-53J Pave Low, Grandson of the Super Jolly.  Lt. Devon Jones was rescued after the A-10s took out a pair of trucks rushing to capture the Lieutenant.   During the mission, the Hog used the call sign “SANDY.” 
The 23rd still uses the call sign SANDY and their motto is taken from the original Air Rescue Service “That Others May Live.”   So I am asking a favor in this segment: if you are in the U.S.   here in the Mid-Atlantic region, we need your help.   

I came through SANDY unscathed.  But I have friends, coworkers, and listeners who need help right now and are faced with another cold Nor’easter. So forgive if I ask you, our listeners, to show the people of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York what SANDY really means.  If you can make a donation to the American RED CROSS by texting Redcross (all one word) to 90999, the message will activate a $10.00 donation to people who need our help.  If you can’t give just say a prayer or send good thoughts.  To see where your donation is going,  check out

In Aviation history, SANDY means hope and safety.   So OTHERS MAY LIVE.   Let’s Show what SANDY really means. 
From here on the East Coast, this is David M. Vanderhoof, your Airplane Geek Historian, signing off. 
Works Cited
"Air Rescue Service." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 June 2012. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.
"Brave Jolly Green." Brave Jolly Green. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.
"Search and Rescue." Search and Rescue. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.
"Special Operations.Com." Special Operations.Com. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <>.

1 comment:

  1. Great subject. It reminded me a lot of a book a read years ago, "Chariots of the Damned", entirely about C-SAR, including some terrifying missions in Vietnam.
    cheers David, keep up the great work