UPDATED WITH PHOTOS AND VIDEO: A multi-agency exercise involving the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service, the Isle of Wight Council and 7 other agencies is underway on the Isle of Wight today (Tuesday).
A Chinook helicopter from RAF Odiham will be testing out a number of landing sites which have been previously identified by the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron based at RAF Benson. The sites were highlighted last year and will today be fully tested to enable a quicker and more effective response to a major incident, should the military be required on the Isle of Wight.
The RAF are this morning demonstrating the under slinging capability of the Chinook aircraft by lifting an Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service high volume pump (HVP) at the Isle of Wight Airport in Sandown. The HVP is an essential piece of equipment used in serious flood situations and major fires.
Firefighters who operate the pumps, along with speciality trained Council staff who act as liaison officers, are being given the opportunity to fly in the aircraft while the high volume pump is being carried, enabling them to further familiarise themselves with the capability and safety aspects of the twin-rotor helicopter.
Later today the Chinook will complete a number of ‘touch and go landings at sites around the Island, at which members of HM Coastguard, the Isle of Wight Council and WightSAR will put their training into practice.
Landing sites identified on the Island include West Wight Sports Centre, St Helen’s Green and Seaclose Park in Newport, where in 2014 a number of military aircraft landed as part of the evacuation of Undercliff Drive. The Isle of Wight Council have not revealed which sites will be used today due to safety and security reasons.
In total 10 different agencies are involved in today’s exercise including: Royal Air Force; Isle of Wight Council; Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service; HM Coastguard; Isle of Wight Ambulance Service; WightSAR; Hampshire Constabulary; Environment Agency; Southern Water and Scottish and Southern Energy.
Councillor Phil Jordan, Isle of Wight Council executive member for public protection, has said:
“Work of this nature will enhance arrangements that are already in place should, a major incident occur.
“It complements work being undertaken by town and parish councils in the development of their own community resilience plans, part of which may require arrangements for the establishment of helicopter landing sites, involving both multi-agency staff and voluntary sector groups with a role in emergency response.
“We would never want to see a major incident take place here, however residents can be assured resilience plans are in place should they ever be needed.”
UPDATE @ 13:00 – The RAF Chinook has successfully completed the under-slinging demonstration with the emergency services at the Isle of Wight Airport, however the touch and go landings at sites around the Island have been cancelled due to a tasking for the helicopter and its crew.