Christopher Gotelli named Aircrewman of the Year for 'Perfect Storm' rescue

Christopher Gotelli, an American helicopter airlift pilot who successfully carried out a terrifying rescue effort last year, has been named as the Naval Air Forces Pacific Enlisted Aircrewman of the Year. Of all the aircrew in the United States, only one from each coast is chosen for this honor.

Gotelli was instrumental in a rescue effort covered by YM in the July 2006 Learning Curve. Yacht designer Richard Woods and his 32ft catamaran Eclipse were caught in a ‘Perfect Storm’ in the Gulf of Tehuantepec, southern Mexico. With 70-knot winds and 20ft seas, his small boat was soon in serious trouble – especially once the parachute anchor burst, giving Woods no choice but to run before the massive waves.

In danger of capsize, Woods sent out a Mayday and activated his Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). A few hours later a US Navy helicopter emerged out of the dark skies and terrifying conditions. Gotelli acted as winch man, suspended 100ft below the helicopter to airlift Woods and his crew to the safety of US frigate USS Ford.

Picture: Eclipse was a sorry sight when she was found after the storm