Search and Rescue Operations (SAR)

The Australian Aerial Patrol was appointed by the Commonwealth as a Civil SAR Unit in 1993. The appointment provided accreditation to both the Aerial Patrol and its highly trained volunteer crew to respond to emergency taskings in south eastern Australia.

In 2001, the Aerial Patrol was contracted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as a provider of the highest level of fixed wing SAR in Australia, with a 30 minute response. The organisation was well known throughout the country as a Tier 1 SAR provider, one of three such groups in the country.

The Patrols dedicated Piper Chieftain aircraft was fitted with a nose mounted FLIR camera and the interior was reconfigured to transport 4 qualified crewpersons with full communications suites, 2 multi person life rafts and a bilge pump, all of which could be expertly dropped to vessels or persons in distress in the harshest of conditions on the ocean surface. The contract remained current until 2007 and was replaced by a new generation of specialised aircraft operated by the Northern Territory company AeroRescue. 


The Australian Aerial Patrol continues to deliver SAR capability with a 30 minute response time in daylight hours and a 60 minute response at night. Thermal imagery is no longer a feature of AAP - SAR operations, however our highly trained volunteer crew are frequently deployed to locate people in distress on land and on the water through visual observation.

Beach Patrol

The Aerial Patrol has conducted Beach Patrols for over 50 years as a community service to assist life guards and life savers and Police and Marine Resue agencies along the most populated coastline of NSW between Sydney's Palm Beach and Mollymook on the South Coast. 

Crew comprise Observers, Radio Operators and Commercial Pilots. 

Beach Patrols are conducted from the October long weekend through the busy summer season until Easter each year.

Aerial Patrol Crew

The Aerial Patrol Crew have many years of experience in search and rescue.

  • Drop Masters are responsible for the deployment of airborne life saving equipment including life rafts and supply canisters such as salvage pumps and heliboxes.
  • Radio Operators are the communication link between aurthorities on the ground and the on board observation team and are highly trained in all aspects of radio communication.
  • Observers are they key to a successfull mission. Before qualifying as an observer, each crew member undertakes a competency based course of instruction as part of his / her recruitment as a qualified observer. 


The Aerial Patrol has a number of specialsed aircraft to perform a variety of vital roles.

  • The Cessna 182 - AIRPAT 2 - is a single engined aircraft, used primarily for Beach Patrols, in-shore surveillance and bushfire detection.
  • The Partnavia - AIRPAT 1 - is also used for Beach Patrols but is essentially a 24/7 SAR platform for tasks outside the range of the C182 relay capability.
  • The Piper Chieftain PA31-350 - AIRPAT 3 - primary SAR platform for supply drop and to provide communications relay and is on standby 24/7.