French pilots spend life savings on buying plane to save Med migrants

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French pilots spend life savings on buying plane to save Med migrants
Photo; AFP

There's giving a few euros to charity. And then there's investing your life savings in a plane to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean.


Commercial pilots Benoît Micolon and José Benavente spent €130,000 on a MCR-4S light airplane which they will fly over the Mediterranean sea off the Libyan coast to look for stricken migrant boats.

Around 500 have people died off the Libyan coast in the first quarter of 2018, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The pair aim to "cover a rectangle stretching 150 kilometres from East to West, 50 kilometres north of Tripoli, the area with the highest concentration of rescues and boat sinkings" José Benavente told Le Monde.
"The NGO boats urgently need assistance locating dinghys and signalling them to the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), the official Italian organisation which coordinates rescues," he said.
Micolon, a former Boeing 747 pilot, and Benavente met in flying school in 2006. They founded a charity Pilotes Volontaires (Voluntary Pilotes) in January to help people in trouble at sea.

The pair had originally hoped to crowdfund the money for their plane, but realised it would take too long.

Fuentes said: “It would have taken too much time. Spring is here, boats are starting to leave Tripoli again. When the humanitarian agency SOS-Mediterranée explained that they were having to rescue canoes from the waves already, we realised that we could be useful immediately.”

The duo’s plane is equipped with an automatic pilot so the pair can keep their eyes on the sea to search for stricken boats.

It can fly for 10 hours before needing to refuel.

The plane also has a satellite communication system to allow it to speak to humanitarian agencies.

By Charlotte Mason


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