RNLI Save Two Pilots in Distress Off the Coast of Jersey
Nov 09, 2022
Footage from the RNLI shows the volunteer lifeboat crew battling through 2-3metre swells, rain and winds of up to 35mph before reaching the two men who had managed to escape the sinking plane and climb inside a liferaft, fitted with a personal locator beacon.
All three of Jersey RNLI’s lifeboats launched – from St Helier and St Catherine – in a major multi-agency operation on Thursday, 3 November, which also involved Jersey Coastguard, Channel Islands air search and a French rescue helicopter.
One of the pilots onboard, Paul Clifford, said: ‘If the RNLI hadn’t rescued us it would have been a different story. I don’t know of anyone else who’s been in that situation and survived.
‘I was undergoing some advanced refresher training when, at the furthest point from the runway, the engine lost power. We did all we could to get the engine going again, but had to ditch the plane. We knew it was incredibly risky and we were unlikely to survive.
‘We climbed onto the wing and had our lifejackets on, and liferaft prepared. We were stood on the wing for around three minutes before the plane went down.’
Locating the casualties was made simpler by the personal locator beacon they were carrying – a portable, battery-powered radio transmitter used in emergencies to locate people in distress at sea in need of immediate rescue.
James Hope, volunteer lifeboat helm at St Helier RNLI, said: ‘The casualties’ use of a personal locator beacon greatly improved their chances of survival and enabled us to find them in under an hour in the gale-force conditions.
‘It’s very hard to spot such a small craft in such big swells, so to actually find two people eight miles out to sea in a liferaft is an amazing feeling; it’s why we do what we do.
‘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.’