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January 31, 2013
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SKILL and ingenuity from Air Force
C-130J crews have ensured the sur-
vival and rescue of a stranded French
On January 18, Alain Delord was
forced into his life raft after rough
seas crippled his yacht Tchouk Tchouk
Nougat three months into an around-
the-world sailing attempt.
Efforts to determine Mr Delord's
condition were hampered because he
only spoke French, and his radio signal
A 37SQN C-130J was launched
from RAAF Base Richmond on
January 19, flying to his life raft 500
miles south-west of Hobart.
On board the C-130J was
SQNLDR Tony Kay, a staff officer
with 84WG, who became a late addi-
tion to the crew that morning.
His limited French vocabulary,
learned during his youth, was about to
make him a critical part in Mr Delord's
"I'm not RAAF-accredited as a for-
eign language speaker, so I was con-
cerned about making a mistake that
could prevent the job from getting
done safely," SQNLDR Kay said.
Captained by CO 37SQN,
WGCDR Darren Goldie, the C-130J
made several passes to assess the
life raft and alert the survivor before
SQNLDR Kay then broadcasted in
French: "Alain Delord, Alain Delord,
this is Rescue 211, we are a C-130J of
the Royal Australian Air Force."
"He replied that he was cold, had
no water, and that his radio was getting
weak," SQNLDR Kay said.
SQNLDR Kay was the first
French-speaker to communicate with
Mr Delord during the rescue, who
sounded in good spirits despite being
told the rescue boat was still 30 hours
"That was important, because it led
us to believe that he wasn't panick-
ing -- that he was holding it together,"
SQNLDR Kay said.
Two attempts to airdrop air-sea res-
A 92WG AP-3C Orion located a vessel
in distress with 12 people on board
about 520 nautical miles north-east of
Port Moresby on January 19.
The aircraft had been assist-
ing a Rescue Coordination
Centre -- Australia request to find
another boat with six people on board
that had been missing off the coast of
Papua New Guinea for three days.
Director General Air and Space
Operations AIRCDRE Gavin Turnbull
commended the aircrews and their
valiant work in saving the lives of
people at sea.
"All of the aircrew and support
personnel can be proud of their
efforts to save the lives of these peo-
ple who were in distress at sea," he
"The Orion crews were instrumen-
tal in saving the lives of 12 people in
a small vessel off the coast of Papua
New Guinea who were not known to
search and rescue authorities at the
The Orion crew notified rescue
authorities to coordinate a response
and also dropped water and a radio to
sustain the people on board until they
were rescued by a civilian ship.
"The people on board the small
boat were very lucky that our crews
were searching in the area at the
time -- they were a long way from the
coast," AIRCDRE Turnbull said.
"The crew was in the final day of a
4800 square nautical mile search for
another vessel in distress missing off
Papua New Guinea at the time."
The Orion started searching on
January 17 and completed wide area
searches over the next three days.
Other civilian fixed and rotary
wing aircraft had also been involved
in the search and coastal searches
were carried out with no sightings
Orion comes to the rescue, too
One to remember
cue kits to the raft failed because of
Delord's high drift rate. This led the
crew to use smaller heliboxes and con-
tainer rescue systems (CRS).
SQNLDR Kay's past experience
would prove useful, having piloted the
C-130 and previously instructed as a
Combat Survival and Rescue Officer
with the Royal Air Force.
Assessing that Mr Delord's imme-
diate priority was probably warmth,
SQNLDR Kay suggested the loadmas-
ters pack a CRS with an Oban water
As a purely visual airdrop, in the
conditions that day, absolute precision
was necessary from WGCDR Goldie
for Mr Delord to retrieve the contents.
The crew successfully provided Mr
Delord with the Oban as well as water,
food and radios.
SQNLDR Kay said the skill and
ingenuity of the C-130J crew had been
critical because they were under time
pressure due to the amount of fuel they
had left. "This rescue may well have
been won, not lost, on day one, with us
dropping to him," SQNLDR Kay said.
"We managed to assess Mr
Delord's requirements and persevered
until we got him what he needed.
"The loadmasters did a great job
of rapidly preparing the heliboxes and
CRS as we were running out of time."
The C-130J landed at Hobart and
returned on January 20, keeping steady
contact with Mr Delord.
Another C-130J was launched from
Richmond to the rescue area, cap-
tained by FLTLT Mitch Beck.
To help the life raft be seen in the
low visibility, the crew's loadmasters
released marker flares from the C-130.
"The cloud base had come down
to 250 feet, and visibility was between
one and two kilometres, with light
showers of rain and last light was less
than an hour away," FLTLT Beck said.
"In these conditions, we were able
to vector the ship PV Orion to Mr
Delord's raft for his rescue."
KEY TO RESCUE: Above from left, FLTLT Mitchell Beck and FLGOFF
Sam Dudman, who flew the second C-130J to the aid of French
yachtsman Alain Delord off Hobart; above right, SQNLDR Tony Kay, of
84WG, whose limited French vocabulary was critical to the rescue; right
centre, loadmaster SGT Adrian Sullivan, who released marker flares to
help the rescue vessel locate the life raft; right Mr Delord's lift raft as seen
from the cockpit.
Rescue photos courtesy FLTLT Mitchell Beck
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