All 3 lifeboats search for the flight crew of a Piper aircraft

At 1.54pm yesterday, all three RNLI lifeboats were requested by Jersey Coastguard to search for the flight crew of a Piper aircraft that had reportedly ditched in the sea off the south east coast of the Island. The RNLI vessels were joined in the search by a French search and rescue helicopter, Dragon 50, the Channel Islands Air Search plane based in Guernsey and Ports of Jersey’s pilot boat ‘Rival’.

The RNLI crews arrived on the scene in force 6-7 winds with 2-3 metre swell and commenced a search of the area in coordination with the Jersey Coastguard and the other search and rescue assets. Two people were found safe and well relatively quickly in a life raft by the St Helier inshore lifeboat. They were then transferred to the all-weather lifeboat and transported back to St Helier where they were met by Paramedics.

The casualties were calm and well-equipped despite the tough conditions. The experienced pilots were doing advanced refresher training when the engine lost power. They did everything they knew and could to raise the alarm and 20 seconds before they ditched air traffic confirmed the RNLI lifeboats were being launched. They used their skill to fly the plane into the wind to slow the speed and were able to land in the sea. They already had their lifejackets on, life raft ready and were able to climb onto the wing as the plane took a few minutes before it started to sink. They also activated their personal locator beacon which gave the RNLI crew a good directional signal to follow. From ditching in the sea to their rescue, the casualties were in the water for just under 1 hour.

RNLI Jersey commend the swift action of the casualties to evacuate to the liferaft once the plane started to sink and having their electronic detection equipment. Their actions and use of their safety equipment greatly improved their chances of survival allowing our crews to locate them quickly in the challenging conditions. If you are heading out to sea this winter, please check your equipment and make sure you are carrying the right safety equipment for your journey.

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