Australian aerial patrol
The Aerial Patrol was formed in 1957 following a meeting convened by the City of Greater Wollongong Council. The Patrol’s charter, to maintain the safety and the welfare of the community through aerial observation and support, was paramount throughout the organisation and forms to this day the basis for which all operations and activities are conducted and provided.
The Aerial Patrol is probably most widely known for its regular shark spotting and beach safety patrols along the coastline between Palm Beach (north of Sydney) and Mollymook on the NSW South Coast. These patrols are undertaken on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays throughout the course of summer October to April and constitute an observation platform for recreational safety beit, swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, bushwalking and the like as well as maintaining a watchful eye on potential bushfire hazards. As well, the Aerial Patrol is available to respond to an emergency 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In recent years, the Aerial Patrol has expanded its level of service to the communities of the south east region of New South Wales and through its affiliation with the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association, to the regional inland centres throughout NSW. An accreditation as a specialist agency in accordance with the State Rescue Manual, administered by the NSW Rescue and Emergency Services Board, provides the necessary authority to the Aerial Patrol to assist and support all land- and marine-based emergency services when appropriate.
In 1993, the Australian Aerial Patrol was recognised by the then Civil Aviation Authority as strategically well positioned, geographically, for Search and Rescue (SAR) and appointed the organisation as an Accredited SAR Unit. This was expanded between 2001 and 2007 to a Tier 1 SAR capability – the highest level of civilian fixed wing SAR in the Commonwealth and only one of three such organisations at that time. Parallel to that, a Working Agreement was formalised in 1993 between the Aerial Patrol and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard by the then Minister for Emergency Services constituting the only such Agreement between a marine agency and an aerial support agency in Australia.
The Aerial Patrol, as a Registered Charity, has relied entirely on a wide range of community fundraising programmes to offset its operational costs. The promotion of annual raffles over a 20-year period was, without a doubt, the Aerial Patrol’s most successful fundraiser. Four Local Government bodies within Illawarra and Shoalhaven provide funding towards the operations. A regional sponsorship by the Bendigo Bank and support from various Registered Clubs and local companies also inject funding towards operations. Further, a number of fundraising functions are conducted throughout the year. Together, these campaigns raise the half million dollars + needed each year to ensure the continued operation of the Patrol's current community activities.
Aerial Patrol personnel undertake their duties in an honorary and voluntary capacity and are rostered for duty 365 days a year daylight hours only. Air crew consist of qualified commercial pilots, airborne observers, accredited dropmasters / dispatchers and radio communications officers.
To support its emergency operations, the Aerial Patrol introduced a commercial infrastructure that includes pilot training and aircraft engineering division under the name NSW Air.. These have generated successful revenue streams towards its community operations. Additionally, the pilot training has streamlined various aspects of the emergency operations through specialised techniques provided via a Commercial training syllabus. The Aerial Patrol is based at the Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park south of Sydney.