Print Header

Royal New Zealand Air Force Saves Four Fijian Boaties

One of the missing boaties located in the water by the RNZAF Orion crew is helped aboard a sport fishing boat that the Orion guided to the scene.

One of the missing boaties located in the water by the RNZAF Orion crew is helped aboard a sport fishing boat that the Orion guided to the scene.

A search and rescue operation near Fiji has saved the lives of four missing boaties when a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion aircraft found their swamped vessel and guided rescuers to survivors in the water. One boatie remains missing.

The Fijian Rescue Coordination Centre requested assistance from New Zealand with a search for a 28ft fibreglass skiff, with five people on board, missing off the South Coast of Fiji. A P3K Orion aircraft, Kiwi Rescue 771 (KRC771), responded departing Whenuapai Air Base yesterday (Saturday) morning at 4:00am for the search area, arriving and establishing on-task at 7:05am.

Within half an hour, KRC771 located a white, swamped, open top vessel. No persons were observed on board, but an immediate search located two people in the water, with life jackets, 1000 metres from their boat.

A nearby game fishing boat three nautical miles away was contacted by the RNZAF aircraft and guided to the survivor's location. They then retrieved the two survivors, and a further two survivors were also located. One person remains missing.

The RNZAF Orion continued a sector search for the missing person but could not locate them before needing to return to New Zealand.

This was the 17th search and rescue sortie flown by the Air Force’s Orions since July last year. No.5 Squadron maintains an aircraft at two hours readiness to get airborne, with an aircraft, twelve aircrew and eight maintenance personal on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.

Located at RNZAF Base Auckland, 5 Squadron operating the P3K Orion aircraft, performs a number of roles for New Zealand.

"We carryout maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, Exclusive Economic Zone patrols, and anti-submarine and surface unit warfare" said operational pilot, Flight Lieutenant Dave Smith.

"But we are probably best known to the public for our search and rescue work. Two dramatic searches that we have been involved in recently were for the Amaltal Columbia which was a large fishing vessel that caught fire off the coast of Christchurch and the Windigo which was a yacht that capsized 1260km North-West of New Zealand.

"In the case of the Amaltal Columbia we were able to coordinate the rescue on scene, which included using our sensors to monitor the spread of fire and provide the ship’s captain with advice which was critical to the safe evacuation of the ship.

"With the Windigo we were able to coordinate the rescue helping the couple onboard until they could be transferred to the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS Otago and returned to safety.

"It’s a pretty satisfying job" said Flight Lieutenant Dave Smith. "Not only is it good to work with all the other government agencies to protect New Zealand’s interests, but it is good to know that you work directly benefits people."


Media seeking more information can contact Squadron Leader Lyn Coromandel, 021 420 899.


The Royal New Zealand Air Force has six P-3K Orion aircraft.

The primary mission is to protect the security and prosperity of New Zealanders by undertaking maritime surveillance and reconnaissance patrols, Exclusive Economic Zone patrols and search and rescue missions around New Zealand. Secondary roles for the IPVs include disaster relief and defence aid to the civil community.

NZ has the ninth longest coastline and the fifth largest maritime Economic Exclusive Zone in the world, an area 15 times our land mass. Our maritime area of interest, is approximately 1/12 of the world's ocean surface.

The Orion is frequently conducts multi-agency operations in support of national security tasks, working in concert with other Government agencies including New Zealand Customs, Ministry of Primary Industries (Fisheries), Department of Conservation, New Zealand Police, and Maritime New Zealand.

Since December 2012, RNZAF Orions have flown eight Search and Rescue sorties (see general locations in the attached graphic):

16 Dec 2012 (NZ local) Kiwi Rescue 574 was launched on Operation Pacific Relief as a response to Cyclone Evan.

Day One, searched for four 9-metre aluminium fishing boats missing from Western Samoa. The crew found several debris fields and 2 wrecked fishing boats, one on a beach, one semi submerged at sea.

Day Two, continued to search for missing fishing boats, more debris fields were found. The crew also carried out Samoan Island coastal damage assessment.

Day Three, continued coastal water search in Samoa and tasked to do coastal damage assessment for Fiji. This day included landing in Nadi to brief Fijian officials and an overnight in Tonga.

Day Four, returned to Whenuapai. Total Hours 32.4

11 Jan 2013 Kiwi Rescue 367 called out to search for a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) with one person on board off the South Wairarapa Coast. The RHIB was found empty. Crew searched to the limit of their endurance then returned to Whenuapai via a refuel at Wellington. Total flight time 11.7 hours.

16 Feb 2013 (NZ local) Kiwi Rescue 095 was launched to search for a 5 metre wooden fishing dingy missing from Tarawa in Kiribati.

Day One. The crew transited to the search area and searched till last light without any significant sightings. Flight time 9.5 hours.

Day Two. As the crew were preparing to get airborne for a further search, Kiribati Police informed RCCNZ that the missing vessel had been found and crew picked up by a Chinese fishing vessel. Kiwi Rescue 095 returned to Whenuapai, flight time 7.2 hours.

09 Mar 2013 Kiwi Rescue 771 was launched to locate missing skiff near Fiji. Boat located and four of the five missing boaties found in water and rescued.


Visit our website at

Return to the Media Release Summary