Civil Air Support is a charity best known for its fleet of light aircraft which may be called upon for a multitude of roles including air observation, air search, and air to ground photography. Now, a new role, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the ‘pony express’ rapid courier service to deliver urgent medical supplies for the NHS with the minimum of delay, using aircraft with a high cruising speed and a good radius of action.
One such aircraft in the fleet of the charity is the Vans RV-7 which cruises at 140 knots, (160 mph) and has an un-refueled radius of action of 300 miles, a return journey of 600 miles, with reserve fuel to deal with any contingencies. Moreover, with a crew of one, the flight is fully compliant with the Government’s instructions on ‘social distancing’ and the charity has updated its operations manual to be fully compliant with the government rules and regulations with regard to COVID-19.
On Sunday, 5 April, at the height of the Coronavirus lock-down, Civil Air Support pilot, Paul Stone, a former member of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, responded to a request from his Local Resilience Forum in Lancashire to transport a critical piece of health equipment, a printed circuit board for a medical ventilator, from Oxford to Kingston upon Hull. The request for assistance required immediate action because the ventilator was required the next morning in Birmingham. After the charity accepted the request for assistance, assessed and selected the right pilot and aircraft to deliver the mission successfully, Paul flew his Van’s RV-7 from his base at Blackpool to Oxford to collect the urgently required electrical component and then flew the component onto the grass landing strip at Beverley airfield, home of the Hull Aero Club, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Humberside Airport was unfortunately closed. From the point where the charity received the request to delivering the component took just 3 hours and 30 minutes. After returning to Blackpool, Paul made the comment, “This was an incredible piece of teamwork. Today would not have been possible without the exceptional support of colleagues at Blackpool, the en route air traffic control services at Manchester, Birmingham, Doncaster, and Oxford and Colin Hazel at Leven airfield who opened his airfield at such short notice.”
With a minimum number of people required to operate a light aircraft, often just one person, the Civil Air Support fleet of aircraft is a cost-effective and efficient way of supporting the COVID-19 national emergency, complementing the role of military and other specialist aircraft that are in high demand during these unprecedented times. Paul added, “I think this provides the Government with another solution on how to transport smaller loads around the country at pace.”