The pilots from over 20 flying clubs in the region had come to Warton for a briefing to the general aviation community on the use of local airspace – but, at the meeting, they were also asked to support police in 2012 by becoming the ‘eyes and ears’ of the county’s Counter Terrorism Branch.
With dozens of landing strips scattered throughout the North West used by hundreds of pilots of a wide variety of light aircraft, keeping an eye on suspicious movements during 2012 will be a massive task.
The police have now appealed to the amateur aviators as responsible flyers for assistance in beating the potential terrorist threat by using their local knowledge of the area and aircraft movements.
DC Graham Wharrier, Lancashire Constabulary’s General Aviation Officer, told the meeting: “You guys know the area as well as anyone. You recognise when something suspicious is taking place, when an aircrew is behaving in an unexpected way, when flight-plans are missing - or when radio communications don’t seem quite right. Next year we would like you to help us by becoming our eyes and ears. If you see something you are not sure about, don’t sit on it, report it immediately – and together we can help mitigate the threat.”
The call comes as Lancashire Constabulary, working with the UK Border Agency and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office launches Project Pegasus – an initiative which joins intelligence together across the nation to deliver enhanced vigilance capability.
Graham said: “It is very rare to get so many flying clubs together in one place so I was really glad to have the opportunity to talk to them.”
John Hurrell, a BAE Systems flying instructor who organised the meeting, said: “While the prime purpose of the meeting was to allow local flying clubs to see how we operate here at Warton and how we use our airspace, it was too good an opportunity to miss when it came to a briefing like this. All of us need to be vigilant next year - the eyes of the world will be on the UK. Taking care of our skies is just one more piece in the jigsaw in ensuring the safety of the Olympics.”
Alan Eastham, a club pilot from Wigan who flies a Skyranger microlight from the Brook Farm Flying Club said: “It has been an extremely useful and informative meeting. It makes it safer for all of us.”
Dave Cornwell from the St Michael’s club in Bilsborrow said: “The information we have been given tonight has been great – especially the level of detail.”
• If you see something suspicious in the local aviation environment then call 01253 604 166 quoting ‘Project Pegasus’ or email Blackpoolairportpoliceoffice@lancashire.pnn.police.uk
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