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Model airplane crash sparks emergency response from lifeboats and coastguards

PUBLISHED: 11:53 26 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:53 26 September 2018

The model aircraft picked up by Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew. Picture: James Tacon

The model aircraft picked up by Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew. Picture: James Tacon


It was a coastguard callout which had all the hallmarks of a dramatic rescue in the making.

The sizeable model aircraft recovered by Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew. Picture: Mick HowesThe sizeable model aircraft recovered by Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew. Picture: Mick Howes

But when Pakefield Coastwatch received a shout on Tuesday telling them a microlight had plunged into the sea, it wasn’t quite what it seemed.

The volunteer organisation, which scours the shoreline near Lowestoft, received a call at around 12.30pm from the Humber Coastguard asking for their help.

The Lowestoft Lifeboat was also scrambled from the town’s harbour, and set off towards the potential crash site.

But, with the help of some useful local knowledge and experience, it was quickly established that the troubled plane was nothing more than a model aircraft that had crashed.

The Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew searching off Pakefield. Picture: Mick HowesThe Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew searching off Pakefield. Picture: Mick Howes

Steve Gowler, 70, was the coastwatchman on duty when the call came in.

He said: “I had seen a model airplane flying around, and there is a field near the back of Pontins and strangely in the summer of 2017 we had a model airplane crash into the sea which we had seen go down before it washed up on the beach.

“We have got a powerful set of binoculars through which we can see the names of boats miles out to see, and I started looking around in the area.”

He added: “I saw the model airplane floating in the water and I rang the guy back and I told him where it was, about 200 yards off the beach.

“I told him the size and it had a four foot wingspan which I based on the fact there was a gull sat on the wing in the wreckage.

“The lifeboat pretty much went straight to it and hooked it out of the water.”

The Lowestoft RNLI relief lifeboat, RNLB Cosandra, had been paged at 12.40pm to search for the mystery object.

Senior fleet staff coxswain, Andrew Mchaffie, said: “When we arrived at the position of the sighting our volunteer crew soon spotted something colourful floating just below the surface about 200 yards offshore.

“We used our boat hook and brought the object onto the lifeboat and discovered it was the remains of a sizeable model aircraft.

“There was additional debris in the water as the model had broken up into several bits which we recovered to make sure that the rest of the area was cleared and then we were released to return to station.”

The Pakefield Coastwatch is a charity which looks after the coastline and maintains the Pakefield lighthouse. They need 42 people to cover a watch, which they do each day from 8am until 8pm, all year round.

For more information on how to get involved or to donate, visit their website at

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