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Home > Blog > Light Aircraft In Emergency Services Environmental Conservation

The Role of Light Aircraft in Emergency Services and Environmental Conservation

Posted 15 May 2023

Light Aircraft in Emergency Services & Environmental Conservation

If you want to learn about the usage of light aircraft in emergency services and environmental conservation, then you are at the right place. This guide will focus on the role of light aircraft in these services and how you can train to be a light aircraft pilot.

Aviation has enabled humans to not just navigate the skies for fun, but it has also enabled next-generation emergency services by flying over areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach on foot.

Aircraft have also allowed us to take environmental conservation to the next level by improving surveys, observing and monitoring endangered animals, and helping control wildfires like never before.

If you want to learn about the usage of light aircraft in emergency services and environmental conservation, then you are at the right place. This guide will focus on the role of light aircraft in these services and how you can train to be a light aircraft pilot.

Light Aircraft – All-Purpose Flying Machines

Light aircraft have been the cornerstone of aviation for a long time. Ever since the first successful aircraft design in 1903, lighter aircraft have become the mainstay, despite the aviation industry focusing more on transport and commercial operations.  

Technically speaking, any aircraft with a maximum Take-off Weight (TOW) of 5,670 kg or less is termed a light aircraft.  Light aircraft are known to be smaller and more compact version of larger aircraft where they share more or less the same design but in a miniaturised body.

These aircraft are lighter than large aircraft that can weigh up to several hundred kilograms. Apart from their weight, there are a lot of variants in light aircraft as well. For example, the most popular (and iconic) type of light aircraft is known as a “fixed-wing” aircraft.

Fixed-wing aircraft have rigid wings made from carbon fibre or composite materials. This makes them quite sturdy and provides a nimbler flying experience when compared to larger aircraft.

These aircraft can seat up to six people and have room for cargo, which makes them excellent aircraft for people who want to transport emergency supplies from one location to another. Fixed-wing aircraft are powered by a smaller but powerful engine that is designed to provide maximum fuel efficiency.

The other popular type of light aircraft is known as flex-wing aircraft. When compared to fixed-wings, these aircraft are even lighter! Some flex-wing aircraft can weigh as less than 450 kilograms.

These aircraft achieve their weight by going with a no-frill design philosophy. Instead of a cabin and enclosed fuselage, flex-wing aircraft have an open cockpit, meaning that the only thing separating you from the environment is a thin windshield that sits at the front – some models don’t even have a windshield which gives the pilot an unobstructed view of their surroundings, perfect for aerial surveys!

Another big difference in the design of flex-wing aircraft is that their wings are made using fabric instead of carbon fibre or other rigid materials. As the air flows through the surface of the fabric, the wings slightly flex, hence the name of the aircraft!

These aircraft are designed to be even more fuel-efficient since they weigh considerably less. However, a downside to using these aircraft is that they can only seat up to two people.

If your goal is to take aerial photographs or to track and monitor endangered species or animal sanctuaries, then this is the perfect aircraft for it. They are easy to control and thanks to their open-cockpit design, pilots get a wider field of view.

Light Helicopters

Helicopters are truly a marvel of modern engineering. Helicopters have been indispensable aircraft that have changed the way we travel. Ever since we unlocked the secrets of vertical take-off and hovering, helicopters have been the default choice for various types of emergency operations.

The benefit of flying helicopters is that they can be precisely controlled in any position. Unlike planes that are perpetually in a forward motion, these aircraft don’t need to be in constant motion to stay in the air. In a nutshell, helicopters work by displacing large volumes of air, thereby achieving lift.

As you can imagine, helicopter work in a different way than regular aircraft. They have four fundamental controls: collective pitch control, throttle control, antitorque control, and cyclic pitch control. These controls enable the pilot to precisely navigate the aircraft with extreme precision.

For example, a recuse mission on a mountain would warrant the use of a helicopter more than any other aircraft. Sometimes, people can get stuck in dangerous areas, especially in areas that allow for very little movement. In these situations, a helicopter is best suited for the job as the pilot can hover near the people and perform the necessary rescue operations.

Perhaps the best thing about helicopters is that they can land on any even surface. This makes them indispensable in many emergencies. Some buildings, like hospitals, also feature helipads that are specifically designed to host one or multiple helicopters.

Helicopters may also offer a bit of room for supplies but please keep in mind that some light helicopter designs are specifically built to be compact and may only provide seating for two people and no room for cargo. However, if your goal is to train for emergency services, then there is no better aircraft suited for the job than helicopters.

Emergency services almost always opt for helicopters because of their versatility. Not only are they highly efficient but they can also be used for various emergency operations related to rescue and even health. For example, if a car accident occurs in an area blocked by snow, then the best course of action would be to airlift the affected individuals using a helicopter.

Helicopters assigned for emergency services are usually fitted with all the necessary equipment to aid in rescue or health-related operations. In the case of a medical emergency, helicopters can be fitted with various medical equipment that are crucial in keeping individuals stable while they are being transported to the nearest hospital.

Examples of How Light Aircraft are Used in Emergency Services and Environmental Conservation

Here are all the ways that light aircraft can be used for emergency services and environmental operations.

Emergency Services


Air Ambulance

With the advent of light aircraft, people immediately began to work on a system that could enable these aircraft to be used for emergency services. One of the first sectors to use these aircraft was the health sector. Naturally, transporting critically ill patients from one location to another is quicker via air than any other transportation method. Travelling via air allows for no obstructions, and patients can receive medical care in the quickest way possible.

Air ambulances are a critical part of health-related emergency services and have been touted to be the best use of light aircraft in aviation history. Light aircraft enable emergency services staff to quickly airlift people from remote areas and even provide stabilising care to them while they are en route.

For example, an individual suffering from a heart attack in a remote area will have a more likely chance of surviving if they are transported by air than via road. The reason for this is simple: remote areas are usually difficult to reach via foot or road and because these areas are usually surrounded by nature, one can also face blockages due to landslides, poor road conditions, and more.

One of the best light aircraft for this type of job is helicopters. These light aircraft can take off vertically and hover over the ground which makes them extremely useful in a long list of emergency operations.

Rescue Operations

Light aircraft have completely changed the way emergency personnel attempt rescue operations. Before the invention of aircraft, brave rescuers would often risk their own lives to save people.

For example, if God forbid a building catches fire, the only way to rescue people would be for a team to go in through the front door or use ladders to rescue people from different floors. Both scenarios are extremely dangerous for all parties. However, with the help of light aircraft, especially helicopters, emergency personnel can easily evacuate people from the roof, or help personnel reach people from a relatively safe area.

Light aircraft can also be used for search operations. In this case, two types of aircraft can be used for the job: the first is a helicopter that can hover over difficult-to-reach areas to search for endangered people, and the second is a flex-wing aircraft that can be used to survey the land from above.

The difference between both aircraft is that a helicopter may be used to search and even rescue people since it can seat usually more than two people, while the flex-wing aircraft can only be used to search, track, and monitor individuals.

Flex-wing pilots can quickly convey the details of the situation via radio and can help emergency personnel on the ground navigate to the affected area.

Environmental Conservation

Light aircraft can be used for various environmental-related operations as well. Here are some of the ways that they are used for wildlife conservation:


Light aircraft, like in many other situations, have completely changed the way we conduct surveys. Aerial surveys are extremely important for multiple reasons: first, they can be used to track wildlife without disturbing their natural habitat. Some wildlife species can be particularly dangerous to survey on foot, which is why conservationists use light aircraft to take quick surveys without even stepping foot in marked territories.

Light aircraft can also be used to monitor endangered species, particularly when the species is in danger of being poached. Pilots can quickly alert authorities via the air and stop poaching activities without delay!

Other than wildlife, light aircraft can also be used to survey land features. For example, pilots can survey land to investigate soil erosion, pollution levels, and even deforestation. This data is invaluable to scientists and can even help them track and possibly figure out corrective strategies.

In this case, various types of light aircraft can be used. Many conservationists use helicopters to survey a large area while smaller operations can warrant the use of lighter aircraft like flex-wings. These aircraft are perfect for aerial surveys because of the wide field of view that they provide.

For example, in the UK, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds regularly employ the use of light aircraft to carefully monitor bird populations.

Fire Control

Perhaps the best use of light aircraft is to monitor and control fires. Forest fires can be particularly devastating to the environment and controlling them at the earliest can not only help preserve the environment but can also stop the fire from reaching urban areas.

Light aircraft are regularly used by various emergency agencies to survey high-risk areas for fire alerts. If a pilot does see signs of fire, they can quickly inform emergency personnel that can take corrective action without delay.

In the case of an ongoing fire, light aircraft are equally indispensable in pinpointing the exact location of the affected area which can help save time and resources for emergency personnel.

Light aircraft also play a role in conveying this location to larger firefighting aircraft that carry water as cargo. These aircraft can quickly unload a large amount of water over the affected area to control the fire. This strategy works best in locations that are otherwise inaccessible by foot or too dangerous for the ground crew to access.

Light Aircraft Training

If you are someone who wants to join a long list of heroes and provide services for helping people or the environment, then we applaud your decision! The first step is to join a flight club that can help you achieve your aviation goals.

Flight schools like Sherburn Aero Club, are specifically designed to help pilots achieve their career goals. Sherburn even offers dedicated helicopter training through Hields Aviation, located inside Sherburn!

Please keep in mind that not every flight school is the same and if you want the very best, then you will have to choose a flight school that delivers quality instructors, a wide range of light aircraft, and high-quality training.

You can start your journey by pursuing a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), which will help you adjust to the world of aviation. Once you are ready to commit, then you can pursue a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) to get career opportunities in commercial operations, including surveys, ambulance services, and more.


Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran in various types of light aircraft.

Sherburn also offers helicopter training through Hields Aviation based in Sherburn! The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

Sherburn offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us at 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on light aircraft, training requirements, licencing procedures, as well as experience flights and pilot training at Sherburn.

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash 



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