RAF Winchmen control the cables playing out over the side of a helicopter when items are being pulled up or down. Whilst the metal cable itself is powered up and down by an electric motor, the winchman still uses his hand to guide the cable and help control it. Normal flying gloves would shred quickly in such operations so the winchmen are issued special gloves with a reinforced kidskin palm:
The gloves can be seen being worn in this photograph of a Search and Rescue Helicopter winchman:
The gloves themselves are made of fine white leather, with the tan reinforcement over the palm and thumb:
A small piece of elastic is sewn into the cuff of each glove to draw it in and help keep them on the hand:
An RAF stores code and sizing is printed on the interior of the gloves in black ink:
The winch was often used to send a member of the helicopter crew down to rescue someone in peril, as in this dramatic account from 2015:
RAF Search and Rescue Winchman, Sergeant Neil Clements, from A Flight 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmer, has been presented with the prestigious Billy Deacon Search and Rescue Memorial Trophy at a ceremony in St James’ Palace, by HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh.The award followed Sgt Clements’ heroic actions during the rescue of a woman in treacherous sea conditions off the Tynemouth pier in November 2014.Arriving at Tynemouth, Rescue 131 quickly located the woman in the water, but she was helpless amongst powerful waves that were battering heavily against the pier. Without hesitation Sergeant Clements entered the torrent of water suspended from his winch cable. Fighting against relentless waves from all sides he was repeatedly submerged until he managed to grasp the woman. His hold on her was short lived however as a massive rogue wave ripped her from his grasp and again she was at the mercy of the sea. The helicopter crew successfully located her again and without hesitation Sergeant Clements was winched back down into raging seas; he battled against wave after wave until he secured a solid grip on the woman. Fully aware that she could be snatched from his grasp at any time, speed of recovery was essential. He knew that if he were to try to place the woman in a rescue strop it would mean letting go of his hold – a risk he was not prepared to take. Using every ounce of his strength he redoubled his grip on the woman and indicated to his crew to lift and move them to calmer water. During the manoeuvre, he used his considerable strength to bear her full weight until the helicopter reached calmer waters where she could be placed in the rescue strop and winched up to the helicopter.