25 Years as the 'Lifeboat's eyes in the sky'
Lions Pride G-CIAS & the Guernsey Lifeboat
History of C.I.A.S.
Channel Islands Air Search celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. It began in 1980 as
Guernsey Air Search when Captain Roger Dadd and three colleagues from Guernsey Airlines realised that they could
use their experience in assisting with sea searches. There was a need for a rapid response search capability in the
4,000 square miles of water surrounding the Channel Islands and the adjacent French coast. This area is notorious
for strong tides, changeable weather, large seas and submerged reefs. It is also one of Europe's highest density
areas for leisure boaters. A yachtman's paradise but also potentially a yachtman's graveyard.
No other agencies operated airborne Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment in the immediate
vicinity and the time taken to call out helicopters or fixed wing aircraft from the UK or France was often too
A Piper Aztec aircraft G-BBWM was equipped and made available by Guernsey Airlines
initially on a loan basis but three years later it was bought with the assistance of the Lions Club and
public donation to enable more equipment to be built in. Little did we realise at the time how the service would
In May 1993, thanks to substantial donations from the Lions' Clubs of Guernsey and Jersey,
the Aztec was replaced with a PBN-2B Islander aircraft built in 1982 and bought in 1992 after airline use in
Equador. A year was spent making 19 non-standard CAA-approved modifications to the aircraft including an extended
nose housing a marine radar. It was aptly re-registered as G-CIAS and named 'Lions Pride'. The overall cost was
£300,000. The Dean of Guernsey held a dedication service for the aircraft on 1st May 1993. It is expected to have
another ten year lifespan taking it to 2011.
In 1995 the next major project was a purpose built hangar at Guernsey airport to house the
aircraft and provide crew facilities. In 2000, the Friends of CIAS raised a magnificent £200,000 to purchase an
advanced third generation Forward Looking Infra Red camera (FLIR) which is located beneath the nose.
The service has flown many hundreds of missions over the 21 years with the call out rate
ranging from 45 per annum to sometimes half that in a quiet year. Dozens of lives have been saved during
To celebrate our 'coming of age' we organised a reunion of all crew members who have been
part of the service since inception and commissioned a second oil painting of the Islander aircraft by Jersey
artist, Gerald Palmer.
Financing of CIAS continues to be solely from voluntary donations, yet we believe that we are
operating one of the most sophisticated yet economical fixed-wing airborne search and rescue operations in the
Our thanks go to the air-crews, the Trustees, the Friends of Air Search for their dedicated
voluntary service over the past 25 years and of course the public and many organisations which have given hundreds
of thousands of pounds
See their website at www.ci-airsearch.com