Charities - Guernsey
Channel Islands Air Search - the
'Lifeboat's eyes in the sky
Lions Pride G-CIAS & the Guernsey Lifeboat
History of Channel Islands Air
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
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 to cover the purchase of equipment and annual running costs which now exceed
Capt Roger Dadd, Chief Officer
For more details and to contribute online, go to their website www.ci-airsearch.com