JARTS – Scotland Crash

While the Easter bank holiday normally means doing that long overdue DIY, visiting family or dragging the kids round an amusement park, for 85 Wing’s Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron (JARTS) the weekend was interrupted when the oncall Crash Team deployed to the outer reaches of Scotland.

Through its duty Crash Teams, JARTS provides a crash recovery capability all year round with each member fully trained in Post Crash Management, crash recovery techniques and operating an array of specialist equipment. When on crash cover, each team member is on-call to deploy anywhere in the world within 12 hours from their base at MoD Boscombe Down, Wiltshire; either to respond to a military crash or in support of the civilian Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) within the UK.

The team received such a call late on Easter Sunday: a light aircraft had crashed in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands. After a quick call to gather the team, WO Payne, the Duty Aircraft Recovery Officer deployed with his team first thing the following morning, for the long convoy north. After 10 hours on the road, they arrived in the area and immediately started planning the recovery.

WO Payne and his team were faced with problems straight away. He said: “One of the initial thoughts at any crash site is accessibility into the location itself. This was particularly problematic on this occasion. Due to the remoteness of the location, access on foot would have taken several hours, access by tracked vehicles was taking upwards of two hours, significantly prolonging the recovery. For this reason, and also to facilitate eventual removal of the wreckage, the AAIB contracted in a helicopter.”

Coming from Inverness, the helicopter was used to shuttle the team and their equipment to the crash site from their RV point at Inverawe Smokery as well as recovering the debris in under-slung loads by helicopter. At the crash site, the team used disc cutters to cut the wreckage sufficiently enough to be transportable under the helicopter.

Once the wreckage was recovered, it was loaded onto an 8-tonne truck in order to transport it to the AAIB’s Farnborough headquarters. Along the route to Farnborough, the truck was either guarded by police or parked at secure military establishments to ensure the safety of the load; now evidence in an investigation. The wreckage will stay at Farnborough until the AAIB have finished their investigation and any police action has been completed. Following this, it will be handed to the insurance company for disposal.

The Crash Team finally arrived back at Boscombe Down on Friday night. They serviced their equipment, handed over the crash cover responsibility to the next team, and went for a well deserved beer.