Volunteer pilots of a flying unit which provides additional air assistance for emergency services arrived in the East Neuk at the weekend for a training day.
The pilots are part of the Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol (SWCAP), which has 28 dedicated units across the UK.
Some of these have been established for a number of years — but it was only around 12 months ago that 24 Unit was set up in north-east Fife with the responsibility of assisting voluntary and professional emergency services in southern Scotland.
24 Unit’s chief pilot, Archie Liggat of St Andrews, was at Kingsmuir Airfield near St Andrews at the weekend.
He explained the sorts of situations where they could be requested for assistance.
“Since we started we have been involved in three searches for missing people,” said Mr Liggat, who works as a commercial airline pilot for British Airways.
“Although we were unsuccessful in finding them, we can cover a large area in a quicker time than that of police and any other service on the ground, so it does free them up to look elsewhere.”
As well as search and rescue, the Sky Watch scheme also assists in locating vessels in danger off the coastline, with flooding rescues and carrying out general air observation.
But funding for the scheme is limited, with the pilots themselves largely footing the costs.
Unit 24 continues to grow, with 19 registered members who use their own light aircraft but Mr Liggat stressed the importance of new volunteers stepping forward.
“Although we are all pilots here we need observers who will be in the aircraft with the pilots and supporters, just like the RNLI, to help,” he said.
“But there is a commitment needed from anyone wishing to do this.
“Ultimately we would like to become the RNLI of the skies.”
The training day itself was taken by Fife man Mike Scott-Hayward of the Forth Coastguard, who is also a pilot. As well as mock search and rescue exercises over north-east Fife he also gave training on search techniques.
For more information or to apply for the Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol visit the website.