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New air-search plane may be delivered next month

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CHANNEL Islands Air Search could take delivery of a new aircraft as soon as next month, the charity’s chief officer has said.

Picture: Channel Islands Air Search (23509984)

John Fitzgerald said the new plane, a Britten-Norman Islander, has now been assembled and was waiting to be painted and have its specialist search equipment installed.

The organisation has been trying to obtain a new aircraft since its old one, Lion’s Pride, crash landed in a field in November 2013 during a search for two fishermen, who were later found at the Ecréhous.

It was initially thought that the stricken aircraft – which sustained heavy damage to its nose – could be repaired and a fundraising campaign was set up.

However, around a month later it was deemed to be damaged beyond repair and CIAS were forced to spend the following years raising about £800,000 to fund the construction of a new plane.

The plane’s delivery date was originally set for early 2017 but has been repeatedly put back and an interim aircraft with more limited capabilities has been used in the meantime.

But now, Mr Fitzgerald said he was hopeful the charity would take delivery of the new aircraft in February.

‘Once the fuselage and wings arrived in the UK from Romania they were able to turn things around quite quickly,’ he said. ‘It should be flown to the paint shop in Bournemouth on 9 January for two weeks.

‘It is a much better aircraft in terms of the data that we can collect and the search equipment we will have on board is much more advanced.

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‘The thermal-imaging camera is a lot more stable, higher resolution and we can mix the image with standard imaging to allow us to see through ship windows.’

Mr Fitzgerald said one of the features of the camera was that it could be pre-set before take-off to search a specific area long before the aircraft arrived at the scene.

He added that when the aircraft is delivered to its base in Guernsey, the crew would need to complete about a month of intensive training it may often be visible flying above Jersey during that time.

‘It is due to be in Jersey in April for a blessing at the Airport and we will be doing a fair few visits to show it to groups and organisations,’ he said.

‘The type of propellers the aircraft has been fitted with are quieter and the thermal capability of the plane means we can fly higher so it should not be as noisy, which is always a concern for us.’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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