Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley welcomes home the crew of the P-3K2 Orion that has been searching for MH370.
1 May 2014
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K2 aircraft and detachment taking part in the search for missing flight MH370 returned to RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai from Perth today as the search enters a new underwater phase.
After 53 days away, Kiwi Rescue 795's deployment has been the longest single search and rescue (SAR) operation ever conducted by the RNZAF, said the Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Mike Yardley.
“Our team has done their very best to find evidence of the fate of MH370, in the hope of bringing some resolution to the families and friends of the passengers. They put in 276 flying hours, representing about 10 per cent of the international aerial search effort, and searched a total area of about 1.5 million square kilometres, an area roughly eight times the size of New Zealand," he said.
“The search areas to which the P-3K2 was assigned are remote and inhospitable. This was a very demanding task, but our crews slotted easily and seamlessly into the international search effort, which was a credit to the adaptability and professionalism of our people and the extremely well co-ordinated operation run by our Anzac colleagues.”
The flight crew was supported by a ground crew who often worked through the night to ensure the aircraft was ready to go each morning.
“Over 40 personnel have been directly involved in Perth and earlier, in Penang in Malaysia,” said AVM Yardley.
SAR operations constitute a core role for the RNZAF. Its personnel are highly trained and the recently upgraded P-3K2 Orion aircraft are well-equipped for SAR operations large and small.
“We always have an aircraft ready to assist in and around New Zealand. It's a crucial role, given that New Zealand has the world's largest SAR zone," he said.
Apart from its regular SAR tasks, the Air Force is busy on many other fronts.
“We are involved with a range of operations and exercises in the coming months, notably the deployment of a P-3K2 Orion to work with the Combined Maritime Forces on counter-piracy tasks in the Gulf of Aden and northern Indian Ocean areas," AVM Yardley said.
“Another P-3K2 will be taking part in Exercise RIMPAC, the world's largest maritime military exercise starting on June 26 this year."