No 'Rambo' role for new flying service

THE new Government Flying Service (GFS) will not become involved in ''Rambo-style'' operations against pirates who attack shipping in and around Hongkong waters, the department's chief said yesterday.

Mr Brian Cluer said the GFS, which takes over providing the territory's official air services from the Royal Hongkong Auxiliary Air Force (RHKAAF) today, will show caution when responding to distress calls from vessels attacked at sea.

''Our role in anti-piracy operations will probably increase, but I would only see that role strictly in an observational capacity. We are not getting Rambo-type helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft,'' he said.

''I would certainly not want our people to be at risk. We are not armed and apart from life-saving, our major role is to support police and provide air services for other government departments.'' The RHKAAF's role in anti-piracy operations was called into question after one pilot buzzed an armed pirate boat to stop it attacking a Chinese freighter off the Parcel Islands in February.

A former Royal Air Force fighter pilot, Mr Cluer, 55, was recruited to the new organisation from Cathay Pacific Airways, where he was general manager of operational services.

Mr Cluer added that the GFS would provide the same services as its 44-year-old predecessor, although the style of operation would be more civilian than military.


Yesterday's rescue mission of missing Viet-namese crewmen was the RHKAAF's last sea operation before an official fly-past formation over the Victoria harbour at noon to mark its historic disbandment.

The closing chapter of the 44-year-old ''Auxies'' was filled with many busy entries. Besides carrying out various rescue operations throughout the territory, various formal ceremonies were held to mark its end.

The honorary Air Commodore, Ross Penlington, took the salute from the fly-past before firing the Noonday Gun at Causeway Bay. In the afternoon, a ceremony for the squadron was held in St John's Cathedral.