Milestone for Challenger search and rescue jets

This week marks a year since the first dedicated Challenger 604 search and rescue jet entered into service with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

Parachuting communication equipment to an injured motorcyclist on the remote Gunbarrel Highway and locating two sailors adrift on a disabled yacht in wild weather 400 kilometres off Sydney are just a few highlights from a busy first year in service.

The Challengers have flown more than 120 search and rescue missions and travelled thousands of kilometres to assist people in distress since the first jet entered service on 16 December 2016, followed by three more jets which progressively replaced AMSA’s five Dornier 328 turboprops.

A significant investment in the safety of Australians, AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said the Challengers were already paying dividends for the community. “270 people have been rescued and of those, 49 lives in imminent danger have been saved in the past year,” Mr Kinley said.

With a range of more than 5,700 kilometres, an endurance of eight hours in the air and a top speed of 900 kilometres per hour, the jets can reach almost every corner of Australia’s 53 million square kilometre search and rescue region in just a few short hours.

The Challengers are fitted with a suite of technology including infra-red and electro-optical cameras, and visual anomaly detection systems which complement visual searching of the crew and enhance the fleet’s overall search and rescue capability.

Impressive satellite broadband communications allow real‑time collaboration with AMSA’s search and rescue officers in the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra.

In addition to delivering life-saving equipment and supplies to people in distress, the Challengers also provide support to other search and rescue crews, both maritime and aviation, who render assistance on scene. “The Challengers are the first responders of search and rescue in Australia,” Mr Kinley said.

“The iconic orange stripes of the jets are often the first sign to people in distress that help is here.”