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Jim Hood

Jim Hood was interviewed on June 2, 2000 by Dave Krupa at the National Park Service Ranger Station in Talkeetna, Alaska. In this interview, Jim talks about flying helicopters and search and rescue operations on Denali, and provides vivid details of day-to-day operations, conducting high altitude rescues and dealing with challening flying conditions. With considerable understatement and humility, Jim provides a first hand account of flying helicopters in one of the most dangerous locations in the world. Flying at altitudes that stretch and even exceed the design specifications of his craft, Jim describes rescue work in conditions where there is no margin for error and "mechanical failure is not an option."

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-17-13

Project: Denali Mountaineering
Date of Interview: Jun 2, 2000
Narrator(s): Jim Hood
Interviewer(s): David Krupa
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
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1) Work history and how he became involved in mountain flying

2) Models of helicopters that he has flown and work leading to the search and rescue job at Denali

3) His experience flying the Lama, work schedule, and a typical non-call work day

4) Other uses of the Lama, and its capabilities

5) Receiving a call, and the beginning stages of a rescue

6) Arriving on the scene and determining how the rescue is to be carried out

7) Assessing the situation and executing a long line rescue

8) The difficulties and challenges of high altitude flying

9) Determining when a rescue is feasible, and the rescue of British climbers stuck on a ledge at 19,000 feet

10) Difficulty of using the long line and the variables that wind can present in a rescue

11) Wind dynamics and their effect on mountain flying

12) Involvement of the military in air support on the mountain, and an engine failure at 14 Camp

13) What emergency features are present in the helicopter in case of an engine failure

14) How technology has helped improve the rescue operations on the mountain

15) Using the Lama's older technology and contracts that he is involved in

16) The challenges of flying in Denali and what keeps bringing him back

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Salt Lake City, UT\ Alpine, WY\ Jackson Hole, WY\ flying -- helicopters\ flying -- mountain\ training -- Hosking Helicopters\ Hosking, Bob\ Hosking, Craig\ Alaska -- work\ Rocky Mountain Helicopters\ Ketchikan, AK\ logging -- helicopters\ helicopters -- Lama\ contract -- McKinley\ Search and Rescue\ work -- history\ work -- airports\ work -- flight instructor\ mountain flying -- difficulty\ Rocky Mountains\ flight time -- accumulation|

Section 2: helicopters -- types\ helicopters -- Jet Rangers\ helicopters -- Hughes 300C\ helicopters -- Bell 222\ helicopters -- Agusta\ Rocky Mountains\ seismic testing\ oil exploration\ logging -- helicopters\ long line\ logging -- difficulties\ Alaska -- work\ Rocky Mountain Helicopters\ contract -- duration\ pilot -- primary\ training -- short haul\ pilot -- back up\ flight time -- limits|

Section 3: helicopters -- Lama\ seismic testing\ Lama -- experience\ Lama -- attributes\ engine -- Lama\ day -- typical\ reading\ movies\ work -- on call\ work -- limitations\ FAA -- regulations\ work -- scheduling\ National Park Service\ pilot -- relief|

Section 4: Lama -- use\ supplies -- flown in\ 14 Camp\ 17 Camp\ cache -- emergency\ fire fighting\ trail building\ work -- construction\ Lama -- payload\ Lama -- capacity|

Section 5: radio -- monitoring\ ranger station\ Search and Rescue\ situation -- briefing\ Denali Pass\ elevation\ mechanic\ inspection -- pre-flight\ fuel -- load\ National Park Service\ backboards\ rescue -- communication\ Rescue Rangers\ gear -- survival\ rescue -- long line\ rescue -- landing\ basecamp\ radio -- information\ weather -- importance\ cache -- fuel\ weight -- critical|

Section 6: weather -- conditions\ scene -- orbit\ contact -- visual\ contact -- radio\ airplanes -- role\ Rescue Ranger\ wind -- conditions\ rescue -- short haul\ rescue -- landing\ rescue -- long line\ landing -- difficulty\ victim -- condition\ Ranger Station -- communication\ basecamp\ 14 Camp|

Section 7: rangers -- fly in\ exposure -- time\ flying -- orbit\ rescue equipment\ rescue -- long line\ altitude\ situation -- assessment\ rescue -- training\ victim\ frostbite\ bones -- broken\ Screamer Suit\ climbers\ carabiners|

Section 8: flying -- mountain\ altitude\ wind patterns\ mountains -- difficulty\ scenery\ beauty\ helicopters\ airplanes -- comparison\ Mt. McKinley\ speed -- tolerance\ air -- thin\ Retreating Blade Stall\ aircraft -- failure\ Rocky Mountains\ oxygen|

Section 9: oxygen mask -- use\ basecamp\ oxygen -- saturation\ risk -- determining\ rescues -- dangerous\ conditions -- hazardous\ climbers -- British\ weather -- conditions\ fuel -- delivery\ glacier\ rescue -- long line\ frostbite\ rescue -- ledge\ 14 Camp|

Section 10: long line -- length\ rescue -- long line\ long line -- precision\ rotor disk\ rescue -- dry run\ parameters -- wind\ parameters -- distance\ wind -- direction\ wind -- gusts\ rescue -- conditions\ Mt. McKinley\ wind -- visualization|

Section 11: Denali Pass\ rescue\ wind -- speed\ snow plumes\ wind -- dynamics\ Lama -- control\ wind -- cross winds\ wind -- up drafts\ wind -- down drafts\ route -- escape\ Alaska Range -- knowledge\ experience -- value\ wind -- effects\ rescue -- long line|

Section 12: air pressure -- effects\ National Park Service -- contract\ Search and Rescue\ Evergreen Helicopters\ military involvement\ 14 camp -- equipment\ helicopters -- Lama\ helicopters -- Chinook\ coverships\ airplanes\ military -- back up\ Denali Pass\ summit\ wind -- conditions\ engine -- failure\ fuel -- conservation\ mechanic\ problem -- computer\ basecamp\ Rangers\ pilot -- back up\ mistakes -- learning from|

Section 13: engine -- failure\ electronic start valve\ engine -- re-lighting kit\ Lama -- engine quality\ helicopters -- auto rotate\ rotor -- free-wheel clutch\ helicopters -- blades\ Rocky Mountains\ landing -- areas|

Section 14: National Park Service -- policies\ climbers -- pre-registration\ Rangers -- orientation\ rescues -- decrease\ rescue -- equipment\ rescues -- improvement\ Lama -- technology\ technology -- impact\ GPS -- value\ LORAN\ victim -- coordinates\ weather -- conditions\ communication -- radio\ Rangers -- assistance|

Section 15: helicopter -- rescue use\ McKinley\ technology -- older\ helicopter -- industry\ helicopters -- high altitude\ risk -- reduction\ education -- importance\ Lama\ test flights\ helicopters -- quality\ contracts -- summer\ Bridger-Teton National Forest\ Search and Rescue\ fire fighting -- helicopters\ Teton Mountains\ winter -- time off|

Section 16: Denali -- difficulty flying\ environment -- challenges\ oxygen -- lack of\ altitudes -- high\ rescue team\ work -- challenges\ helicopter -- Lama\ Rocky Mountain Helicopters\ Tuzo, Ray -- mechanic\ test flights\ pilot -- primary|