The Katrina Experience:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has added her knowledge of helicopter rescue operations during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the debate over the right choice for a new combat search and rescue helicopter. Roxana Tiron of the Congressional newspaper, The Hill, reports that Landrieu sent Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne a letter last week, offering first hand accounts of Katrina rescue operations, during which the use of Boeing’s CH-47s was stopped because the downwash created by the twin-rotor helicopter endangered the individuals being rescued. Instead, the Chinooks were diverted to transport-only duties. The Air Force selection of Boeing’s HH-47 for its CSAR-X helicopter replacement program has dismayed defense analysts and veteran pilots who felt that either the Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland US101 or Sikorsky HH-92 would be better choices for the CSAR mission. A chief criticism has been the downwash issue, but they also cite the Chinook’s larger size as not ideally suited to CSAR. Now, the Air Force faces another round of protests from Lockheed and Sikorsky. And, while the GAO has said it would speed its decision, the agency’s protest docket shows due dates of Sept. 17 and Sept. 26, respectively. And yet to be seen are results from the review being conducted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).