NOAA OR&R recently conducted an advanced aerial observation of oil on water course at the Disaster Response Center and the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL.
The course consisted of 3 half days with two overflights offshore of Louisiana. Approximately 30 students from the National Strike Force Gulf Strike Team attended the first day of introductory level instruction offered as a complement to the online module- "Introduction to Observing oil from Helicopters and Planes" developed by OR&R. The second and third day of the course more advanced training for students was provided including the opportunity to conduct an actual aerial overflight in a USCG HC-144 with pilots from the USCG Aviation Training Center (ATC). Results of the overflight from both days were reviewed for comparison allowing students to better understand how surface oil expressions can vary greatly from one day to the next based on weather and sea state conditions. As designated Special Teams under the National Contingency Plan, both the NSF Strike Team and the NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator (SSC) are often engaged early-on and work closely throughout larger more consequential spills to provide specialized technical and scientific support to the response. Having trained aerial observers is critical to providing the level of support needed for effective and timely response. Collaborative activities between the NSF and the SSC may very likely include aerial observations for the evaluation and assessment of dispersant use via the SMART protocols as well as observations essential for refining/ground truthing NOAA trajectory modeling. Putting together the most well suited aircraft resources such as those available 24-7 from the ATC with 24-7 ready-trained observers from the Strike Team is a best case for delivering enhanced response support. Given these resources and personnel are collocated at the base adjoining the Mobile Airport offers excellent opportunities for joint training and enhanced mission readiness. For additional information, please contact the SSC in your region.