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One of the more unusual charities taking part in the 2007 Portsoy Boat Festival involves aircraft. Sky Watch is a registered UK charity which aims to provide observation and search aircraft in support of local communities and the emergency services.

More than 200 UK pilots support Sky Watch by keeping a lookout from a variety of small aircraft during their local training flights - a "neighbourhood watch" of the air. Since Sky Watch was formed in 2002, a number of observed incidents have been reported to the emergency services via air traffic control. These have included children trapped on sand banks and cliffs, major road accidents and small boats in difficulty. In northern England, pilots also support local farmers by watching livestock and reporting damage to crops or stolen farm vehicles.

In the last three years, more experienced ex military or airline pilots have formed 12 regional units to also provide back up search aircraft for the emergency services. There have been many incidents where busy rescue helicopters cannot also provide an eye in the sky to monitor events such as flooding, major fires or environmental pollution. In 2006, Sky Watch established an understanding with MCA, the UK coastguard authority, and now maintains close links with regional maritime rescue co-ordination centres.

Towards the end of last year, the first Scottish Sky Watch unit was formed by a small group of pilots centred on the Moray Flying Club at RAF Kinloss. The group has expanded to also include flyers at Inverness, Oban, Perth and Longside. Pilots include a captain from the Fishery Protection Flying Unit at Inverness, the Chief Flying Instructors from Kinloss and Inverness and a Tornado simulator instructor from RAF Lossiemouth. Recent coastguard support missions include providing a monitor for the flood water released during the rescue of a person trapped in a fishing loch south of Elgin.

As part of the Portsoy Festival, Sky Watch will monitor the progress of the historic sailing boat flotilla en route to the event to ensure that none of the older craft get into difficulties. It will also be an opportunity for press photographers to capture the progress of this unique local event from the air.

For enquiries about aerial support for community activities, contact

Sky Watch Highland
01414 162167 Office
07976 591322 Mobile  E-mail