A Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion yesterday found three Kiribati fishermen who had been missing for a week.
The P-3K2 Orion aircraft from RNZAF's 5 Squadron took off at 6.30am yesterday to search for the missing men, and spotted them waving from their 16ft skiff soon after reaching the search area.
They were found adrift near Tarawa, the Pacific Islands nation's capital and main atoll.
The Orion crew reported that the men appeared to be in good health and dropped them emergency supplies of food, water, a torch and a radio.
The fishermen were advised to await the arrival of the Kiribati patrol boat MV Tina Teroai, which was about 110km south of the area where the skiff was drifting, and they were picked up by the patrol boat around midnight last night.
The men, aged from 34 to 47, were last seen fishing between Tarawa and Maina atolls about 10am on May 7.
The New Zealand Defence Force assistance was requested through the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand on Friday.
The Orion also found another skiff drifting near Tarawa but with no one on board.
"It was a successful search that saved three lives. The fishermen did not appear to have any survival equipment so it is fortunate that our Orion found them," Air Component Commander Air Commodore Darryn Webb said.
The Squadron has conducted four search and rescue operations in the Pacific since January, including three to Kiribati.