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Survivor meets life-saving AMSA aircrew at Cobham Cairns base

Today, a solo sailor who was rescued after spending several hours in the ocean after being pitched overboard from his yacht visited Cobham’s base to meet some of the search-and-rescue aircrew who helped save his life.

On 4 January 2021, AMSA tasked its Cairns-based SAR Challenger Jet to locate 55-year-old Nigel Fox, when he was separated from his yacht, 93 kilometres northeast from the remote town of Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory. The crew not only located Nigel, but successfully dropped a life raft to him before he was later retrieved by NT police.

At Cobham’s base at Cairns Airport today, Nigel met key crew members, who provided the opportunity to look inside a SAR Challenger Jet and view lifesaving equipment that can be dropped from the aircraft to persons in distress.

Survivor meets life-saving AMSA aircrew at Cobham Cairns base from Cobham Aviation Services on Vimeo.

“It’s thanks to this crew that I’ve been given a whole new lease on life,” Nigel said.

“I want to pay it back and support getting the message out there – if you go into the water unprepared, you may not come out.”

Aircraft Mission Coordinator Ollie Marin who was onboard the SAR Challenger Jet on the day of the rescue said it was his first-time meeting someone who he was instrumental in saving.

“It’s been fantastic to hear Nigel’s story, show him the Cobham base, the Challenger jet and some life-saving equipment we use,” Ollie said.

“Most people wouldn’t know about the level of precision required to drop a life raft from a jet aircraft travelling at 200 ft, 330 kph to a single person in the sea. A successful drop and an unsuccessful drop is separated only by a matter of seconds.

“It’s thanks to the technology on board the aircraft and our highly-skilled crews, that we were able to successfully drop the life raft to Nigel that day.

“It takes an incredible amount of teamwork to do what we do, with fellow aircrew on board the jet, with the AMSA Response Centre in Canberra, with other vessels, aircraft operators and State police. I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

Australia has one of the most sophisticated civil search-and-rescue capabilities in the world – four highly-modified Challenger jets, operated by Cobham, are capable of covering an area equivalent to one tenth of the Earth’s surface.

About Cobham’s search-and-rescue (SAR) capabilities on behalf of AMSA

  • Cobham has a long-term contract with AMSA to conduct SAR missions across Australia’s vast SAR region.
  • To meet this demand, Cobham designed, integrated, commissioned and now operates a fleet of Challenger jets that contain some of the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art technology ever to be integrated into a civil SAR platform.
  • Cobham has fitted the Challenger jets with the latest generation sensors, ViDAR cameras, high-vision windows, and broadband satellite communication which allows real-time sharing of streamed video, audio, and imagery between the aircraft and the AMSA Response Centre. This technology enables AMSA’s search and rescue officers to be virtual crew members with eyes and ears at the scene as an event unfolds.
  • Cobham employs and trains highly skilled aircrew to perform SAR tasks, including searching for missing people, locating activated distress beacons, providing communications support at an incident and dropping survival equipment to people in distress.
  • The Challenger jets are based and operated out of Cairns, Perth and Essendon.
  • In Cairns, Cobham employs more than 100 people to support all of its operations in the region including SAR, surveillance and closed charter flights. Cairns is also home to Cobham’s Mission Systems Workshop.

Read our Case Study on this life-saving event

We respectfully acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners on whose lands we work, live and fly. We pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.