Island Life   

    the community website serving the Channel Islands                                                                               celebrating 13 years 2000 - 2013

 

 

 

25 Years as the 'Lifeboat's eyes in the sky'


 

Lions Pride Guernsey Lifeboat
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 long.

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 grow.

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 this period.

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 world.

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

 
 
 
 
 
 

  

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