Posted by: njrigg | March 17, 2010

New Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD Swiftwater Rescue Testing with Travis County STAR Flight

New Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

Swiftwater Rescue Testing with Travis County STAR Flight

By Casey Ping

Program Director, Travis County STAR Flight, Texas USA

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

We think the new Force 6 Tactical/SAR PFD offers our helicopter personnel with the best device for hoisting/short hauling in the swiftwater environment.

Previously, we used various harnesses with a PFD over the top of the harness. This created some hoist/short haul vs. harnesses interface issues. One integrated unit solves that problem.

There were some logistical issues in the development. Harness design is really based upon intended use. In this case we wanted an integrated harness that was a comfortable swimming harness with unrestricted movement of the arms/legs, but was also as comfortable as possible when suspended in it. It was a matter of compromise to find the best combination of both worlds.

The upper part of the PFD and shoulder openings are large, offering unrestricted movement of the arms.

Users should understand that this PFD is not intended to be a harness rescuers will be in for a long time. Most hoist and short haul durations are measured in minutes. Multiple lifting points offer both traditional and dorsal attachment options. The waist lifting point allows for boat/ground based rescuers to do over-bank evolutions that may be necessary in some swiftwater environments. The PFD has Molle webbing so any of the hundreds of off-the-shelf Molle pouches/bags/pockets will work, giving the wearer endless possibilities for configuration and meeting environmental or mission demands.

The integrated harness has another benefit: it holds the PFD down. Normally the PFD wants to ride up as the wearer enters the water. It is amazing what a little flotation in the right position can do. Even though this PFD only has 18 lbs of flotation many of our rescuers float higher than in previous Force 6 PFDs. That is because the flotation is in the best place to be effective.

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD, tested by Travis County STAR Flight

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD, testing, Travis CO STAR Flight

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

Travis County Texas STAR Flight

Swiftwater rescue test, Force 6 Tactical / SAR PFD

Overall we are very happy with the tactical PFD and they have been issued to all the Travis County STAR Flight and Texas Task Force 1 helicopter rescue personnel.

PHOTOS: (C) David Krussow, all rights reserved

March 16, 2010



  1. I teach SWR from the stance of canoe/kayak paddlers. I don’t instruct at a level using helicopters or motorized water craft. Most rescues happen during daytime hours, but i like the idea of reflective strips on the pfd and bright colors. I didn’t notice either of these on the Force 6 vest. Black just doesn’t show up in the water. In rescues in creek and shallow-water environments there are many places for extra straps and tow tethers to get caught on tree limbs, river bottoms and/or along embankments. Generally, i discourage tow tethers on the rescue swimmer because they tend to pull the rescuers lower in the water when being lowered to a victim or being hauled back upstream from a direct or indirect lower. The same would be true for the leg harness, though I recognize the value of the leg harness in short hauls. I like the idea of pockets on the vest, but would like to see lower profiles which allow rescuers to re-enter rescue craft more easily.


  2. I have a red Force 6 PFD. I really like it and it’s bright. You can see it from a distance with no problem. The buoyancy characteristics keep you well visible in the water. The reflective strips do show up well at night. We tried it on night training. I picked mine up at a local shop here, HighMountain Technical and Rescue Equipment. Helpful guys and they do have an online store you can check out all their swift-water gear. Anyway, I most like the construction of this jacket over the others I tried. All webbing is sewn well. The back ring and handle are sewn also. You really feel secure in this thing. I recommend it to everyone that asks which brand to get.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: