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Farewell AeroRescue – Job Well Done

For the past 12 years or so, AeroRescue has provided the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre with dedicated Dornier 328 fixed wing search and rescue aircraft.  This contract has now drawn to a close, as we enter a new jet era with a new primary contractor.


This video, put together by AeroRescue, looks back at some of the many incidents that the Dorniers were tasked to respond to.  Some are incidents that received world wide media coverage, but the majority were ‘all in a day’s work’ for the crew, who worked tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for those they were searching for.  This video was put together to thank those wonderful people, but it also showcases the world class Australian Search and Rescue System at work.

Thank you AeroRescue.  Job well done.


How to make sure you get rescued

For those of you who always wanted to know…



For more information check out Save Our Selves – A guide to getting help in remote areas.

Inadvertent beacon activation rates over 80 percent

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has released figures for 406 distress beacon activations in Australia in 2016, and frankly, the figures are alarming.

There were 1323 beacon activations over the twelve month period, and a massive 1074 were classified as “inadvertent” by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.  This means that resources were spent tracking down beacon owners and confirming their safety, on average, three times a day, every day of the year.

If a beacon is registered, this may be as simple as a phone call to the owner, or their emergency contact.

But if the beacon is unregistered, or the registration details are out of date, valuable resources are spent tracking the signal, locating the source and turning it off.  Beacons have been found in boats, backs of cars, storage units, and regularly in rubbish tips.  No one enjoys sifting through tonnes of rubbish looking for an active distress beacon that has been discarded.

So how do we help:

  1. Register your beacon.  This is simple to do, and is free. Click here:
  2. If you sell your boat with a beacon, update your beacon registration.  This is separate to changing the boat’s registration.
  3. Before you dispose of your out of date beacon – make sure you disconnect the batteries.  Make sure you also update the beacon registration status.  Click here:

Australia has the highest rates of beacon ownership in the world, and around two-thirds of beacons are registered.  This simple process really helps SAR authorities act quickly with a tailored response to your situation.  It also allows authorities to quickly determine which alerts are inadvertent, and which require rescue.


When to turn on your beacon?

In New Zealand a couple of weeks ago, a party of hikers were rescued in Kahurangi National park, after activating their 406MHz distress beacon, and by doing so, created a storm of controversy.

The party were stranded by rising waters, so retraced their route and stayed in a hut along the Leslie-Karamean Track.  They were uninjured, and safely accommodated in the hut, with sufficient food and water for a few days.   Knowing that they would be delayed from making their pre-arranged rendezvous, they activated their distress beacon.

Mike McGavin in New Zealand runs the Windy Hilltops blog.  A passionate tramper (as hikers are called in NZ), his site grew from trip reports around his home to discussions about hiker safety and training.  His discussion on this incident relates to the one-way communication limitations of the current generations of PLBs and other 406MHz distress beacons.

Their story is remarkably similar to a hiker in Tasmania who was delayed by falling snow that I reported here:

It seems ironic that as the COSPAS SARSAT system moves to a new generation of satellites (, users are demanding technology that allows two way communication.  This has opened the market to a range of other satellite messenger technologies.  Users primarily access the non-emergency features of these devices such as tracking or trip recording.  Whilst most are not optimised for distress alerting, they do have some ability to do so.

To find the distress alerting tool that works best for you, check out  Save Our Selves – A guide to getting help in remote areas.  This handy guide explains how:

  • to get assistance in remote areas
  • how the search and rescue system works in Australia, and
  • examines various distress alerting systems from beacons and satellite messengers.

To read more of Mike’s excellent blog, check out:

How satellite based communication devices are changing the world

In an example of the truth is often stranger than fiction, a man in remote Western Australia found himself stranded, rescued and then was involved in the rescue of the pilot of a plane that had gone in search of him!

On Thursday morning, police received a report a man was stranded about 100km northeast of Leinster, a goldmining town 10 hours’ northeast of Perth. He was alone when his vehicle had a flat battery. He alerted a colleague via a GPS-based alert device.

Leinster police contacted a mine site near the GPS co-ordinates and a team of mine workers drove out in the early afternoon to rescue him. Meanwhile, the man’s colleague had organised a search plane through a friend, which ­arrived on the scene just as the mine rescuers turned up. The plane turned around and headed back to base at a nearby station.

An hour later, the AMSA Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra contacted WA police ­because a distress beacon had been activated 7km from where the stranded man was found.

The mine workers, driving back to their mine with the stranded man, were sent back to the area, where they discovered the rescue plane pilot, who had tried to make an emergency landing and ended up striking a tree.

The pilot and a passenger, both unharmed, then joined the mine workers and stranded man to drive back to the mine site.

The Australian 16 July 2016

The alerting device used by the man to alert his friend could well have been an SPOT Messenger or In-Reach device.  These use the Iridium satellite network to pass text messages from your smart-phone to your contacts.  The man obviously needed assistance, but as the situation wasn’t life threatening, he elected to ask his friend to arrange for help.

The Iridium network devices also have a distress alerting function, which in the case of emergencies bypass your normal contacts and alert the SAR authorities directly.  As the stranded man only had a flat battery, this wasn’t required.

The aircraft was carrying a 406MHz distress beacon. These are a single use distress alerting tool, and alert the SAR authorities directly.  When the aircraft was damaged in a forced landing, the pilot turned on his 406MHz beacon, and alerted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra.  Whilst uninjured, this was the correct use of this device, noting the location of the accident.

These two incidents used different alerting methods to arrange for assistance.  Both were appropriate for the situation.

To find out which device would best suit your situation as part of your remote communication plan, check out Save Our Selves – A guide for getting help in remote areas.

Source: The Australian 16 July 2016

Are new(er) cars really more reliable? Seeking a unicorn

We are getting ready for another adventure into the remote deserts of Australia.  An important part of my preparation for the trip is to ensure our car is in top mechanical shape.  As I dropped it off at the mechanics this morning, I let him know that I had thrown an error code relating to the EGR (exhaust gas reticulation system) in the past week or two.  I had fortunately been able to use the Scan Gauge to not only get the car out of limp mode, but also been able to identify the fault to the EGR using this tool.

But it got me thinking.

We bought the car new in 2013, as a calculated part of our risk management strategy for our big lap in 2014.  We figured a new car would be more reliable than an older vehicle, and if we did break down, at least we would be covered by warranty.

And breakdown we did.  Almost 1000 km of corrugated dirt road from the nearest dealer we coasted to a stop beside the Cape York Development Road.  It seems that modern 4wd vehicles are not designed for thousands of kilometres of corrugations – nor are dealers adept at identifying issues or checking the car thoroughly at its frequent servicing schedule.  The full story of that adventure can be found here:

To their credit, VW Assist were exemplary in getting us back to civilisation, and covered our flights, accommodation and rental car until we were back on the road.  But it was an expensive exercise for them, and perhaps it was my first warning bell that modern cars aren’t as bush ready as their predecessors.

And so here I am today with a faulty EGR valve.  This equipment is the Achilles heel of modern common rail diesel engines.  Part of the emission management system, it feeds exhaust gas back through the combustion chamber.  Unfortunately it can also leak, and if coolant or water enters the system, the water can also enter the combustion chamber, causing the engine to hydraulically lock.  This results in catastrophic failure of the engine.

My mechanic said it is unfortunately very common with all of the common rail diesels.  And as manufacturers struggle to meet Euro V and VI emission standards, it will only get worse.   It seems we have sacrificed reliability and longevity in the hunt for cleaner emissions.  Whilst I understand completely the requirement for cleaner air, it seems that manufacturers are only interested in getting their vehicles to their warranty end date and no more.

It is one of the fine balances of marketing and economics I guess… You make a car too reliable, and people only buy one car, meaning you slowly go out of business.  You make it reliable enough that people like it, and will buy a new one, but ensure that it doesn’t last so long that you go out of business waiting for them to return to your marque.  Argh.

So whilst I wait for the mechanic to call me back, I’ll just start looking for my next car.  It has to have the following features:

  • Simple mechanical engine that can be fixed on the side of the road with a piece of fencing wire or cloth tape, and a diagnostic port that I can plug in my scan gauge and know what is wrong instantly.
  • Loads of power to sit on the speed limit laden up hills but great fuel economy
  • No computers to fail, but must have some modern aids such as traction control, cruise control, stability control
  • A nice kangaroo proof bull bar – with air bags and crumple zones to keep us safe inside
  • Euro 6 emissions…
  • And blue tooth streaming, reverse camera, air conditioning…

I don’t ask for much do I?  Does such a car really exist?


Other thoughts as to what can make your adventures more comfortable can be found here:

Man injured in wild bull attack activates PLB

A grazier on a cattle station near Teemburra Dam is lucky to be alive after he was attacked by a mickey or wild bull on the weekend .  He was seriously injured after being gored by the unbranded bull whilst working on his property.  Unable to drive himself to medical care, he activated his PLB.

Authorities responded quickly. After determining the grazier was working alone on the property, the CQ Rescue helicopter was immediately tasked to locate the grazier by homing the signal from the PLB or beacon.  A doctor and paramedic on-board the helicopter provided emergency care on scene before the man was airlifted to Mackay Base Hospital.

Source: Daily Mercury 6 Jun 2016

Police praised the actions of the injured man.  His quick thinking enabled the rescue helicopter to promptly locate him and provide first class medical care.  It almost certainly saved his life.

A PLB is something all people who work remotely or in areas of poor mobile phone coverage should consider carrying.  Many companies already mandate such a device for their employees.  You may never need to use it, but you can be assured that if you do, help will be on its way.

To work out the best remote communication plan for you, check out Save Our Selves – A guide to getting help in remote areas.