Articles from England & Wales

News of SWCAP's activity.

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The UK Civil Air Patrol, ’the volunteers in the air’, was very pleased to respond to a request from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) to transport Cetacean Satellite Tagging Kits to locations in the UK, close to ‘hotspots’ where whales, dolphins and porpoises are known to beach and to endanger themselves. When one of these magnificent mammals is saved it’s tagged before being returned to the sea.

BDMLR veterinary support coordinator, Natalie Waddington said, “Once a veterinary surgeon attaches a tag to the dorsal fin we can follow the animal over subsequent days and weeks to track their progress and, most importantly, to make sure that they haven’t re-stranded elsewhere.”

The UK Civil Air Patrol (CAP), ‘the volunteers in the air’ has completed one of its most ambitious missions, to support the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) with the delivery of Cetacean Satellite Tagging Kits from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland, from Cornwall to Inverness, as well as to Newcastle and to Perth. A total of eight kits have now been deployed to locations close to where whales, dolphins and porpoises are known to beach themselves. There are now two kits in Cornwall, one in Devon, one near Newcastle, one at Perth, one in Inverness and one in Moray. The eighth kit is kept at the BDMLR HQ at Uckfield in East Sussex.

After considering the various options it was agreed that four kits would be flown from Perranporth in Cornwall to Turweston in Buckinghamshire by CAP pilot, Carl Beardmore. The four kits were assembled for the flight by by BDMLR veterinary support coordinator, Natalie Waddington who explained, “Once a veterinary surgeon attaches a tag to the dorsal fin we can follow the animal over subsequent days and weeks to track the mammals progress and, most importantly, to make sure that they haven’t re-stranded elsewhere.”

At Turweston 2 of the kits were transferred to a Cessna 340 belonging to CAP chief pilot and CEO of Akki Aviation Services Ltd, Graham Mountford, for the flight to Inverness. By coincidence, CAP pilot, Robert de Roeck was collecting his Cessna Turbo Centurion from Akki Aviation, post maintenance, and agreed to drop one kit off at Eshott, near Newcastle, and take the fourth kit to his home base at Perth.

At Eshott the aircraft was met by airfield operator, Richard Pike, BDMLR North East coordinator, Jane Hardy and local Civil Air Patrol pilot, Storm Smith. Then, after dropping off the satellite tracking kit, a refuel and a quick turnaround, the aircraft continued its flight to Perth.

After the deliveries had been completed the BDMLR national coordinator, Julie Cable said, “We became very excited when we heard that the UK Civil Air Patrol could help us by transporting this valuable equipment to locations throughout the UK. We knew that this unique equipment would be in safe hands. The flight delivery by the Civil Air Patrol’s volunteers was exemplary.”

Click this link to our Gallery for pictures from the operation.

The UK Civil Air Patrol is a charity best known for its fleet of light aircraft which may be called upon for a multitude of roles including air observation, air search and air to ground photography. Now, a new role, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the ‘pony express’ rapid courier service to deliver urgent medical supplies for the NHS with the minimum of delay, using aircraft with a high cruising speed and a good radius of action.

One such aircraft in the fleet of the charity is the Van’s RV-7 which cruises at 140 knots, (160 mph) and has an un-refuelled radius of action of 300 miles, a return journey of 600 miles, with reserve fuel to deal with any contingencies. Moreover, with a crew of one, the flight is fully compliant with the Government's instructions on ‘social distancing’ and the charity has updated its operations manual to be fully compliant with the government rules and regulations with regard to COVID-19.

On Sunday, 5 April, at the height of the Coronavirus lock-down, UK Civil Air Patrol pilot, Paul Stone, a former member of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, responded to a request from his Local Resilience Forum in Lancashire to transport a critical piece of health equipment, a printed circuit board for a medical ventilator, from Oxford to Kingston upon Hull. The request for assistance required immediate action because the ventilator was required the next morning in Birmingham. After the charity accepted the request for assistance, assessed and selected the right pilot and aircraft to deliver the mission successfully, Paul flew his Van’s RV-7 from his base at Blackpool to Oxford to collect the urgently required electrical component and then flew the component onto the grass landing strip at Beverley airfield, home of the Hull Aero Club, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Humberside Airport was unfortunately closed. From the point where the charity received the request to delivering the component took just 3 hours and 30 minutes. After returning to Blackpool, Paul made the comment, “This was an incredible piece of teamwork. Today would not have been possible without the exceptional support of colleagues at Blackpool, the enroute air traffic control services at Manchester, Birmingham, Doncaster and Oxford and Colin Hazel at Leven airfield who opened his airfield at such short notice.”

With a minimum number of people required to operate a light aircraft, often just one person, the UK Civil Air Patrol fleet of aircraft is a cost effective and efficient way of supporting the COVID-19 national emergency, complementing the role of military and other specialist aircraft that are in high demand during these unprecedented times. Paul added, “I think this provides the Government with another solution on how to transport smaller loads around the country at pace.”

If you would like to reach out to UK Civil Air Patrol to find out how this charity can help you, please call Jeff Smith on 07939 064150. Jeff is himself a pilot and Trustee of the charity.

Did the earth move for you too?

Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue requested the assistance of SWCAP to help them plan an exercise involving the major redevelopment of the A14. The massive construction project has changed the face of the area around the current road to such an extent that the current maps do not include the changed road layout etc.

Not surprisingly the Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service needs to have a good understanding of access points to the development and changes to the road layout affecting the local area.

The Eastern Area of SWCAP was able to assist with two crews flying early morning missions (to give an indication of the traffic congestion that would be part of the equation for an exercise) to obtain images of the work between Huntingdon and Cambridge. The images were all geocoded to allow the FRS to locate the individual camera positions to give them perspective on each photograph. Please see our Photo Gallery for photos of some very impressive civil engineering.

From request to images ready for delivery took just 48hours, which is an indication of the dedication and commitment of SWCAP members.

The Bedfordshire Local Emergency Volunteers Committee (part of the Local Resilience Forum) was alerted to an incident developing on the boarder between Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire in the evening of 5th June. The situation was that an unauthorised reservoir on farmland and had been allowed to become far too full and the dam was showing evidence of failure. The situation was deemed potentially very serious as in the event of failure the opinion was that up to 100 properties would be significantly affected with the potential for water to cause collapse of structures and loss of life. Due to the very serious nature of the potential threat, a Strategic Control Group (SCG) was also established, chaired by a senior police officer from Cambridge. This is the first incident in that commander’s memory that has resulted in the need for an SCG – an indication as to the risk to life that was identified.

Unfortunately, due to the recent developments in the area, neither the reservoir nor a new housing estate that was identified to be at greatest risk were on the Ordinance Survey maps or Google Earth. Acting as Gold commander for the Tactical Coordinating Group Graham Mountford (the Deputy Chief Pilot for Eastern Area) was able to offer to activate a Sky Watch crew to take up to date photographs of the whole area and the reservoir to allow better situation analysis. Police, Fire and rescue and environment agency all welcomed the offer, especially as access to the site was considered difficult. An Eastern Area crew were able to get airborne at 9am on the 6th June (Pilot Graham Mountford, Observer Neil McAllister, flying Cessna210 from Turweston) and took still and video footage.

They were able to use Whats App to pass messages and photos live from the air to the TCG meeting that was sitting at the time, and were able to receive live requests to photograph new areas considered to be at risk following further analysis. In addition they photographed sites identified as evacuation centres and the routes to them from the affected area. The crew identifed that one of the previously planned evacuation centres was on the other side of the potentially flood area from the properties to be evacuated with no suitable route. Should evacuation have been necessary, this problem would have added greatly to the risks to the safe management of the incident.

After landing the high resolution images were shared with the Cat 1 responders and provided essential up to date intelligence to help manage the water draining and the potential evacuation. Fortunately the multi agency response team were able to reinforce the dam and drain sufficient water to reduce the risk and no evacuation was needed. All the agencies involved were grateful for the contribution from Sky Watch, which was identified as significant in informing plans for access of pumps to the reservoir and establishment of safe routes and areas for evacuation.

Sky Watch’s contribution has since been acknowledged by the Cambridgeshire Chief Fire Officer and hopefully will serve to highlight our capabilities to assist the Local Emergency Services in the future.

The Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol joined a number of emergency services in a multiagency exercise at Cranfield Airport in mid October to provide aviation input to the operation and to trial the use of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones to you and me) in managing an accident scene.

The incident was around an aircraft that had a major failure on take-off and managed to stop while still on the runway. Unfortunately this was not without damage to the aircraft which resulted in a fuel spill and injury to a number of the 13 people on board.

THE EXERCISE Cranfield University provided two airframes (one intact and one considerably less so). The fuel containment and passenger evacuation was initially carried out on the first aircraft. The exercise them switched to the second aircraft where the fire service was required to extract two severely injured people using cutting and lifting gear. The final stage involved the process necessary to deal with a fatality which required the involvement of the police as for the management of a potential crime scene.

Members from the Eastern Area attended the exercise to explore the practicalities and value of deploying drones to assist the incident commander in the management of the operation. Both normal cameras and Infra-red cameras were used. The normal cameras to provide a bird’s eye view of deployment and the IR camera was used to scan the incident and surrounding area for heat sources. The object being to detect early indication of fire at the incident and to locate any “victims” that may have self-evacuated from the crash and become disorientated or ill.

The exercise demonstrated that the use of drones under the direct direction of the incident commander had significant possibilities and needed to be developed further. It also highlighted a number of communication and control issues for operating drones in an incident area that need to be further explored.

Some pictures from the exercise can be found in the on-line gallery on this web site.
Jump to Gallery.

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