Air Force crew respond to mayday call

The crew of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion last night responded to a mayday call after a paddler ended up in the water near Whangarei Heads.

While conducting a training flight off the coast west of Auckland, the crew heard a distress message at around 7 pm on maritime radio that an outrigger type canoe had broken up and a man was in the water.

NZ Police had issued the mayday, concerned about the man’s safety.

The Orion crew quickly diverted to the scene, arriving there within 10 minutes, and located the man in the water using the aircraft’s infrared sensors.

The crew relayed the man’s exact position through to maritime radio.

Within minutes after the Orion arrived at the location, the man and his swamped craft were picked up by a vessel. The paddler was understood to be cold but otherwise unhurt.

The Orion remained in the area until the man was safely out of the water.

Personnel from RNZAF’s No 5 Squadron, who fly the Orions, regularly respond to search and rescue missions.

The flight last night was part of training the RNZAF is carrying out to maintain core flying currencies.

The RNZAF, and New Zealand Defence Force as a whole, must maintain its operational readiness to carry out the tasks required of it by the government, including search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster relief, as well as contributing to the All of Government response to COVID-19.

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