Italian Air Force in SAR Training at The Underwater Centre

The Italian Air Force Search and Rescue team has been expanding its skills and knowledge during a visit to The Underwater Centre.

Beniamino Panduccio, David Padula, and Massimiliano Lai – members of the Sardinian-based Italian Air Force Search and Rescue team – spent three days at the Centre in Fort William, Scotland, undergoing ROV operations training, during which they worked primarily with the Centre’s Saab Seaeye Falcon observation class ROV.

During their stay, the Italian team also learned about mapping, measuring and navigation using sonar in preparation for operating in difficult conditions including zero light and visibility, as well as practicing search and recovery.

The candidates spent the first day flying the ROV from the pier with the A-Frame LARS and cage allowing them to get used to the operation and work regime for the observation class system. They also flew the SAAB Seaeye Falcon in Loch Linnhe, the tidal seawater loch, or lake, on which the Centre is located, from the Centre’s dive vessel, Loch Sunart, from which they spent time diving to the seabed, some 150ft below in pitch-black conditions.

A simulated rescue was undertaken on the loch using the ROV hook, a specialist piece of equipment designed to assist ROV operators, latching and un-latching equipment safely for deployment and recovery. A dummy cargo was lowered to the seabed using the hook allowing the team to practice hooking and un-hooking the weight to simulate a recovery.

“The three days were quite a challenge as they were doing things they had never done before, which was the main point of them being here,” the Centre’s ROV Training Manager Paul Bury said.

Also, the conditions were at times very difficult but they got through it all well and the underwater conditions didn’t disappoint – they were black, deep and there was zero visibility, which is exactly what they wanted and needed to be able to train properly in real-life conditions.

Massimiliano Lai, of the Sardinian team, said: “We have learned a lot in a short time, in particular from our instructor Paul, and we are very satisfied with the level of care and safety that out team was shown.”

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