TWO pilots who were rescued by the RNLI after their plane ditched into the sea are urging Islanders to sign up for a fundraising challenge for the charity.
Paul Clifford and Duncan Laisney are due to take part in the Mayday Mile initiative, which encourages people to cover a mile a day during the month of May.
All three of Jersey’s RNLI lifeboats, as well as the Channel Islands Air Search plane and a French rescue helicopter, were called out when the pair’s light aircraft ditched off the south-east coast last November.
Mr Clifford said: ‘If the RNLI hadn’t rescued us it would have been a different story. I don’t know of anyone else who’s been in that situation and survived.
‘I was undergoing some advanced refresher training when, at the furthest point from the runway, the engine lost power. We did all we could to get the engine going again, but had to ditch the plane. We knew it was incredibly risky and we were unlikely to survive.’
Describing the moments after the crash, he said: ‘We climbed onto the wing, and had our lifejackets on and liferaft prepared. We were stood on the wing for around three minutes before the plane went down.’
He added: ‘The RNLI do a fantastic job. I’m here today because of what they did for us. They were there, they were fantastic.’
Alex Scott, volunteer helm on St Helier’s inshore RNLI lifeboat, said: ‘When you hear that an aircraft has gone down, you think the worst, hoping for the best.
‘It’s a great feeling to have been able to help someone. That’s ultimately why we’ve all volunteered and why we do what we do.’
Islanders are being encouraged to walk, jog, hop or skip one mile a day every day in May, with all proceeds going towards vital equipment and training for the RNLI.
Recently released figures show that the organisation launched 131 times in the Channel Islands last year, saving five lives.
Lucy Ashton, the regional engagement lead at the RNLI, said: ‘As a charity, we rely on the generous support of members of the public to continue this lifesaving work.
‘We need ongoing fundraising – now, more than ever – to keep providing our lifesavers with the best equipment and training for their important lifesaving role, which is why we’re calling on people to support our lifesavers this May.’
Islanders can sign up for the Mayday Mile on the RNLI website, rnli.org.