Grappa detachment Ejercito del Aire Sigonella
Copyright: Antonio Rodriguez Santana

Return of 82nd Squadron – Wing 46 of Spanish Air Force from the detachment Grappa in Sigonella

The historical evolution of this group goes back sixty-three years, since its origin dates from 1955 with the creation of the 51 Salvation Squadron based in Los Rodeos, equipped with two Sikorsky helicopters (H.19), moving the same year to the Gando Air Base in Gran Canaria, later incorporating the first of the three AD.1 Grumman Albatros SA-16 with which he counted. It changed its name to 56 Squadron until October 27, 1967, it became known as 802 Squadron of Air Forces and in 1998, 802 Squadron of Air Forces and RCC Canarias.

Since its creation in 1955, this SAR Unit of the Air Force in the Canary Islands has carried out more than 6,000 different missions related to aspects of the search and rescue in the scenario of the islands, as evacuations of the sick and wounded to the hospitals of the capital islands, searches and coverage, evacuating more than 2,400 people in 114,000 hours flown, counting with the appreciation and recognition of the civil population of the islands.

In 1960, on the occasion of the earthquake that struck the Moroccan city of Agadir, causing 12,000 deaths, an AD.1 Grumman Albatros aircraft from SAR 802 was the first aircraft to land on the deformed airport runway carrying medical aid from Gran Canaria.

This veteran unit has also participated in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, the ORION detachment in the Atalanta operation in Djibouti, and currently in the GRAPPA detachment in the SOPHIA operation of the EUNAVFOR MED, whose operations center is the base of Sigonella, on the Italian island of Sicily.

On July 8, 2016, it goes on to its current denomination, 82nd Squadron, integrating itself into Wing 46 (Ala 46) and constituting the Canary Islands RCC in an independent unit belonging to the Canary Air Command. Its main mission is to provide the Search and Rescue Service (SAR) necessary in the Search and Rescue Region of the Canary Islands or the SRR of the Canary Islands.

The mission: the GRAPPA detachment

This is the mission from which it comes, the 24 members of 82nd SAR Squadron who return. The covered area is the middle Mediterranean with the limit of the territorial waters of Libya, doing surveillance and locating migrants aboard fragile vessels, where they are issued by mafias that have made human trafficking their business model.

destacamento Grappa Ejercito del Aire Vigma D.4

destacamento Grappa Ejercito del Aire Vigma D.4

During the operation, from 10 September to 16 January, 32 irregular vessels have been located by this group with a figure that exceeds 3,000 people trying to reach the European coasts, in the words of the General Head of the Canary Islands Air Command, using the versatile and efficient CASA CN235 VIGMA aircraft.

After the location, it is the naval units of the participating countries that take charge of the rescue. Some members highlight the good reception of the contingent among the Sicilian population and its gastronomy very similar to the Spanish due to the Mediterranean character of both.

The relief of this personnel of the Wing 46 has taken it the corresponding one of the Wing 49 of Palma de Mallorca where the SAR 801 Squadron is integrated.

Article and photo credits: Antonio Rodriguez Santana