10/15/2011

Helicopter surveillance in France

Since mid-August there have been many flights by unidentified French aircraft using the callsign DRAG74. They are most probably state helicopters surveying the Haute Savoie (department 74).


The origins of these flights may be related to an unknown French aircraft, almost certainly a helicopter, flying on 17 August and using the callsign DRAGON. The same aircraft and callsign was seen the following day, and then again on 15 September.

On 14 August, just after the first DRAGON flight, a different aircraft (again French and unknown) flew using the callsign DRAG74. The following day, another aircraft flew uying the same DRAG74 callsign. This time we identified it as a helicopter belonging to the French Sécurité Civile (although it does not appear in their central registry).

Since then we have detected these aircraft a number of times (on about 25 days), with the most recent one being in the late afternoon yesterday, 14 October. Although mostly in the daytime, there have been some flights very late at night, including one after midnight on 15 September.

One of the meanings of DRAG is to explore (with a dragnet). From this we might think that these flights are an exploration, certainly over France, looking for something. Although we have no idea where these flights originated (probably somewhere at most 50-100 km from Geneva), the use of the number 74, which corresponds to the Haute Savoie department of France, gives a clue to where they might be.

Is this just a French initiative, or is it part of a Franco-Swiss crackdown on some kind of criminality involving the two countries?

14:20 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (2) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

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DRAG74 is the "french" equivalent of REGA15 -> French helicopter rescue services.
DRAG means DRAGON, but an ICAO flightplan cannot contain more than 7 letters. They fly mainly when a life is in danger. It's not a secret, the helicopter has its base in Anneçy.

Posted by: skyrunner | 10/17/2011

Thanks for the information: it would actually be nice to know the identification of the helicopter.
What is interesting is that DRAG74 only started this August: I can find no record of it before then. Likewise, DRAGON was unknown until June of this year, and has been used by two different, also unknown, aircraft. In June it was ICAO identifier 3B7B4B and in August 3B7BA6.

Posted by: Mike Gerard | 10/17/2011

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