Air Force Orion locates missing boat off Kiribati

Survivors waving to the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion SAR Crew

Survivors wave to the Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion Search and Rescue crew. (WN 10-0006-005)

23 January 2010

A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion has successfully located a 16ft vessel missing at sea for six days in the seas off Kiribati.

The four teenagers (three females and one male) were all well but drifting approximately 50 nautical miles north west of the island of Tarawa. Their outboard motor stopped due to mechanical problems and the relieved teenagers were all waving frantically to attract the attention of the Orion crew. 

The Search and Rescue mission was co-ordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in Fiji who sent a request to RCC in New Zealand late Thursday evening. The Orion launched during the early hours of Friday morning and found the missing vessel just after an hour of arriving in the 11,000sq km search area.

A Patrol Boat from Tarawa was provided guidance to the location of the survivors and they were picked up at approximately 1030pm last night.  The Patrol Boat with the vessel in tow were headed back to Tarawa.
"It’s a great result to locate survivors in such a vast search area. Our Orion crews are very highly trained and have significant experience in these missions, however you never really know what you're faced with until you arrive in the search area” said the Commanding Officer of No 5 Squadron, Wing Commander Nick Olney.

After a 20 hour day the Orion crew departed the search area and spent the night in Vanuatu before returning to NZ later today.

Wing Commander Olney added “It’s been a very busy week for No 5 Squadron with aircraft operating from the southern ocean to north of the equator in support of Customs, Fisheries and in this case the RCC”.


Background notes:

The RNZAF maintains a P-3K Orion and crew on 24-hour search and rescue call out 365 days of the year. A permanent crew is always on two hour call out standby.

The P-3K Orion has a flight time of 15 hours during search and rescue operations with engines shut down to preserve fuel.

No 5 Squadron is one of the force elements under the command of the Air Component Commander JFHQ. Located at RNZAF Base Auckland, the Squadron is the RNZAF's only maritime patrol squadron. It is responsible for surveillance of New Zealand's maritime area of interest, which is approximately 1/12 of the world's ocean surface, ranging from the Antarctic to the equator.

For more information please contact Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki, Defence Communications Group on 04 496 0294 or 021 420 899.

This page was last reviewed on 20 January 2011.