Eyes to the sky: low flying planes off Isle of Wight for test oil spill response

Oil Spill Response' Boeing 727.
Oil Spill Response' Boeing 727.

IF YOU see low-flying aircraft — don't worry, it's just an exercise.

Multiple aircraft, including a Boeing 727, are due to perform an oil spill training exercise in the Solent this week.

The live on-the-water exercise involves simulating an oil spill incident to test response equipment and instruct personnel on best-practice procedures.

It will mark the first time the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) have collaborated on this type of activity, alongside aviation operators 2Excel and RVL.

It will take place southwest of the Isle of Wight and along the Solent tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday.

The event will involve the Boeing 727 flying at a low level and depositing a small amount of a harmless fluorescein dye into the water to act as a simulated oil spill.

The MCA’s dedicated Boeing 737 and spotter aircraft will also be part of the exercise, operated by RVL Aviation.

OSRL vessels will then perform the relevant training activities and use the 727 and 737 to spray water over the target area, simulating the application of a specialist oil spill dispersant.

Throughout the week, various containment and remediation equipment items will be deployed in the water and may be visible from the shore.

Apparatus will include a range of different booms used to contain oil in an actual spill scenario and ‘skimmers’, which collect oil from the water’s surface and transfer it to a tank or vessel.