Accidental activation sparks search

Last updated 11:19 18/02/2013

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A beacon accidentally switched on in a glider in the Nelson Lakes area sparked a search last night, which ended this morning after the signal was tracked to the glider parked on the ground.

The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter said it was tasked by the Rescue Coordination Centre - Wellington (RCC) to look for the source of the beacon last night after a signal was picked up by several commercial aircraft flying between Nelson and Christchurch.

Initial reports indicated that it was between 10 and 40 nautical miles south of Nelson.

The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter started searching last night, but had to abandon the search due to weather conditions.

It started looking again this morning at 7.30am after confirmation the beacon was still active.

Daylight and better weather meant the helicopter could fly further south and located a beacon signal approximately 20 miles south of Nelson, over the Branch River area.

Using the helicopter's on-board tracking equipment, the helicopter was able to track the signal to a glider parked on the ground at Lake Station Airfield, St Arnaud.

Talking with the pilots at the airfield it was suggested that the beacon was accidentally activated at the end of flying yesterday.

The beacon on-board the glider can be manually operated, with a three stage switch allowing for an ON, OFF or armed position. The beacon will activate from the armed position in an accident.

It appears the glider operators may have switched the beacon from the Armed position to On, at the end of a flight yesterday.

It is normal practice to arm the beacon prior to flight and then turn it off at the end of the day.

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