OCEAN CITY — A Stephen Decatur High School graduate turned Coast Guard helicopter flight mechanic returned to the resort on Tuesday as part of a crew spreading the message about the dangers of shining laser pointers on aircraft and related some of the details about critical search and rescue missions at sea.
Coast Guard AMC-1 Rob Grossman, a 1997 Stephen Decatur graduate, was aboard a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter as part of a public service mission to raise awareness about the dangers of shining laser pointers on any aircraft, particularly Coast Guard helicopters on critical search and rescue missions. Grossman was part of the four-member crew aboard the MH-65 Dolphin that landed at the Coast Guard Ocean City facility on the bay near Worcester Street on Tuesday morning.
Grossman is the flight mechanic on the MH-65 Dolphin and plays a critical role in search-and-rescue missions. The crew also includes a pilot, co-pilot and rescue swimmer and each has specific tasks to perform on search and rescue missions at sea. As flight mechanic, Grossman makes sure the aircraft is performing properly, monitors information from a computer on locations is missing or injured boaters and other critical functions. Once over a stranded or disable vessel or swimmer, he operates the boom and hoist that can raise an ill or injured victim in the water aboard the aircraft.
“There are four members on board and all of us are extra sets of eyes when we’re on a rescue mission,” he said. “We have on-board computers that track the original coordinates of the rescue call and chart the current and drift information so we can best locate victims in a wide open ocean.”
Grossman said the Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin can encounter all sorts of problems while on a critical search and rescue mission.
“In the summer, as we fly low along the coast, we can encounter all sorts of stuff in the sky from banner planes to parasailers,” he said. “In the fall, migratory birds can cause a lot of problems as you can imagine. We have to look out for them because they can disable an aircraft. We also have to remember that they were here first.”
Grossman said the MH-65 Dolphin has an average flight time of about two-and-a-half hours before fuel and other considerations come into play. For that reason, the crew gathers as much information as possible while on the way to a mission.
“We operate in pretty tight windows sometimes, so we gather as much information as we can,” he said. “We try to find out how many victims, how long they have been lost and what potential medical conditions might be so we know what we’re up against when we get there.”
Grossman re-emphasized the importance of boaters filing a trip plan.
“About one third of our search and rescue missions are overdue vessels,” he said. “We can’t say it enough how important it is to let someone know your plan when you head out on the water. Let somebody know where you’re going and when you’re coming back. That is critical information when we’re looking for a little dot out on the ocean.”
Grossman is stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, which covers a vast area of the mid-Atlantic region. He said he gets back to Ocean City from time to time and always marvels about how much it has changed and how much it is still the same.
“My first job when I was around 14 was as a bellhop at the Sahara,” he said. “It was the best job in life being around the hotel and the beach and Boardwalk. I always remember around 4 p.m. on Labor Day Monday, you could drive golf balls down Coastal Highway without hitting anything or anybody. That’s how seasonal it was when I was a kid.”