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An aircraft hes been sighted upside down.....time to go to work.

Guest Brett Campany

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Guest Brett Campany

An aircraft has been sighted upside down.....time to go to work.


I've been reading the "Remote Area's" post and very recently I went on a job that I believe could've been a "worst case scenario" situation.


The call came through about 1745. Sunset was due at 2025 so we didn't have much time to muck around. Another pilot had seen an aircraft down in a remote area and passed on the position to the Rescue Co-ordination Center.


We were in the air just after 1800 and had about a 40 minute transit.


This was all the info we had. 1 plane on a slight ridge. No beacon, no ELT, no report of survivors, no sighting of smoke and no real description of the aircraft or the crash site.


Basically we had nothing so all we could look for was either a plane in bits or scrap metal laying on a ridge.


We arrived at our tasked area and immediately began searching. With nothing to go on and sunset on it's way, we had no time to spare.


We received a phone call from the RCC, the pilot gave us the wrong position. We're still 170nm to far south. Straight away we started to climb and move to the required location. At this stage we're all trying to figure out how the wrong position was given to us.


We arrived on task with about an hour of sunlight to go.


We searched the area and saturated it. We covered every piece of bush, ridge, rock and station.


Eventually we had to call it quits. It was pitch black and we had covered every possible sector as thoroughly as we could. There's nothing worse than being taken of task when there could be someone out there needing us. It leaves a real empty feeling in your stomach.


We diverted to the nearest airfield to refuel and head home. It wasn't until we were on our way home later that night that we received the call from the RCC with an update on the downed aircraft.


The RCC had done some research and found that there was an old Cessna 152 upturned about 20nm away from our search area. No aircraft or person had been reported missing so they can only assume that this pilot had seen this up turned Cessna and called it in.


It was a huge relief knowing that we hadn't left someone behind.


So here's a few things I picked up from that particular job.


1. If there was a pilot reported missing and he had no beacon, emergency equipment or radios what so ever, he could've been out there a lot longer or worst case scenario, still be out there.


2. This very well could've been a pilot taking a small aircraft from one airport to another just a couple of hundred miles away. It could've been something he / she had done many times before, just like those small cross country runs any other pilot may do on any particular weekend. This very well could've been a case of complacency.


3. Why didn't the pilot who was the plane stay in the area until help arrived? How could the pilot get the position so wrong that we ended up searching an area 170nm away from the actual site?


4. The pilot who saw the aircraft acted accordingly in reporting what he thought was a downed aircraft. But he should've checked and double checked the position he gave the RCC to make sure we get the right information the first time.


This is the worse case scenario that can happen to any pilot. This situation happened this week and has bought home some reality of the risks everyone takes by not having the right equipment when doing a long flight.


Don't rely on just VHF / HF or mobile phone coverage. If you're doing a long trip, take a beacon with you and have it within arms reach or brief your Pax on how to use it.


If you see a downed aircraft, stay on location as long as you can and make sure the RCC has all of the correct details you give them, make them repeat everything you give them to confirm that they have the right information. Give details description of the crash zone, aircraft type, people seen, surrounding area, terrain, weather and nearest stations / farms or towns.


Fly safe everyone and know that if anything goes wrong, we'll come and get you!



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