A Lifesaving Use of APRS

Using APRS to track Brothers To the Rescue

Lots of photos, so please be patient while they download

Pic of raft In the years since Cuba was taken over by Fidel Castro, many of its residents have risked (and lost) their lives trying to cross the 90 mile wide Florida Straits to Key West. Most of them don't have the luxury of coming on a cruise ship, either! Here's one of the nicer boats was used by the refugees. I believe this "boat" was occupied by 13 people. Dangerous ?

Pic of raft with motorcycle engine Here, Rich (N2CZF) shows us the most innovative raft we saw: a motorcycle engine and transmission (complete with gas tank and chrome exhausts) coupled thru the hull to a propeller.

Sign This Group has been the center of Political controversy ever since it was started in 1991. In February, 1996, Cuban MIG-29 jets shot down two of the BTTR aircraft over International waters. The facts are clear about when and where the aircraft were shot down, and that they were unarmed. I won't get into the politics- I'll only tell the story. From this sign in the hangar, it is evident that the danger is crystal clear!

Pic of BTTR Aircraft Here's Ralph, N4NEQ (left) and Louis, N4LDG, posing with one of the Cessna 337 aircraft that BTTR uses in their searches for rafters in trouble! The logo represents the colors of the Cuban flag, with a person in a raft waving for help. The seagull represents the rescue plane. Louis is in charge of installing/maintaining the APRS equipment on the aircraft.

[IMAGE] Because this flight marked the six month anniversary of the shooting down of the two BTTR airplanes, a circle of hands was made and prayers were said. The flowers are a memorial wreath that was to be thrown into the water at the site of the deaths of the four BTTR pilots who were shot down.

[IMAGE] With any flight over water (but especially these), life jackets are required. Here, a German TV cameraman who was going along to videotape the flight is shown how to don his life vest.

[IMAGE] [IMAGE]These photos show the Group's founder, Jose Basulto, along with another BTTR pilot.

[IMAGE] N4NEQ pauses a moment while tracking the aircraft using APRS. Stand alone GPS trackers were used in each plane. Digipeaters located in the Florida Keys relayed the signals back to the BTTR aircraft hangar at Opa-Locka.

[IMAGE] Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the last airplane touched down after the mission. No rafters were found on this trip, but severe thunderstorms in the air near Cuba prevented the flight from lasting as long as usual.

APRS Equipment used: PacComm Pico-Packet TNCs, Garmin Trackpack 35 GPSs and Kenwood radios.

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You can reach me by e-mail at: rwf (at) BSRG.org
Photos and text Copyright © 1998 Ralph Fowler, N4NEQ