The maritime search and rescue (SAR) missions are often performed by civil aircraft modified for the role. The modifications often include search radars, electro-optic sensors, night-vision goggles and other mission-related equipment. As the aircraft are usually used in the search and locate role to cue other SAR assets, such as surface ships and helicopters to perform the rescue, there may be a significant time that may elapse between the initial survivor location and the rescue being carried out. The aircraft may be required to air drop emergency equipment or supplies to sustain the survivors while waiting for the rescue assets to arrive on scene.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) operates a fleet of modified Dornier 328 search and rescue aircraft for long-range SAR missions. These aircraft are modified with radars and sensors, and GVH Aerospace was presented with the challenge of modifying the aircraft for rescue stores to be dispatched and air dropped.
GVH Aerospace rose to the challenge and designed a stores’ dispatching system comprising a chute on the underwing emergency exit and a rack for securing the rescue stores. This system provided an interim capability for dispatching rescue stores. GVH Aerospace subsequently undertook the much larger design task of modifying the aircraft to provide access to the cargo area and designing a left-hand inflight opening rear cargo door for dispatching larger items, such as 20-man life rafts and de-watering pumps. This inflight opening door was designed as a replacement of the interim dispatch chute system. The inflight opening door was approved for installation on the aircraft under a CASA STC. These aircraft entered service in 2007 and have been saving lives since.
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