I don't always agree with his views but this caught my attention. Shared under the fair dealings provisions of the copyright act.
OPINION: Former presidential copters should do search and rescue in Canada
Published August 25, 2016 - 5:37pm
Since the Trudeau government took office, the minister of national defence has spent much of his time musing about Canada’s military role in Iraq, the CF-18 replacements, and a future role in peacekeeping.
As important as these issues are, the minister would be wise to spend time on another file in need of his attention: search and rescue (SAR).
SAR does not get much attention until something goes awry.
I often recount this story when discussing SAR, but it’s one most Canadians likely still remember.
In October, 2011, SAR technician Sgt. Janick Gilbert and his crew were called to fly to Igloolik, Nunavut, to rescue a young man and his father stranded on the ice. Thirty minutes before sunset and total darkness, the SAR techs parachuted down into waves more than 10 feet high. The temperature was -8C and winds were gusting up to 60 kilometres an hour. Sgt. Gilbert landed the furthest from the liferaft and was found five hours later, floating lifeless in the water. He was posthumously awarded the Star of Courage for his actions.
This is just one example of more than 10,000 SAR incidents that occur each year. Around 1,200 are considered life-and-death situations. The sheer number of annual rescues is compounded by the vast expanse of coverage SAR techs are called on to provide. Canadian SAR operations are divided into three areas, totalling 18 million square kilometres. The largest, the Trenton region , spans more than 10 million square kilometres, an area 15 times the size of France.
SAR techs rely on a number of specialized fixed and rotary wing aircraft, including the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter. While Cormorants are highly effective SAR aircraft, there simply are just not enough to go around in a country the size of Canada. The 14 Cormorants are spread between the east and west coasts, leaving Trenton region to rely on the inferior CH-146 Griffon.
The Griffon is a converted civilian helicopter never designed to be used for SAR. It’s considerably slower than the Cormorant, has less lift capacity and less than half the aeronautical range.
The Cormorants are now almost 20 years old. They are approaching their required mid-life refit. When the refit begins, the fleet will be further thinned. The Griffons will likely have to assume a larger role in SAR.
If anyone took a few minutes to focus on this issue, they would find there is a cost-effective answer to this problem.
Canada has nine VH-71 helicopters, which are very similar to the Cormorants, sitting idle. We’ve already paid for them. They were part of a fleet originally bought by the U.S. Marines to transport the president. When the Americans cancelled the program in 2012, the RCAF snapped them up, along with 800,000 spare parts for pennies on the dollar.
The minister of defence should have already acted to secure funds needed to put these VH-71s into service. Despite this oversight, it’s not too late. The presidential choppers would only require new avionics suites and side doors to make them SAR ready.
By doing so, we would be able to refit the Cormorants without diminishing SAR capabilities while the refit is under way.
After the refit, the new VH-71s would replace the Griffons, bring commonality to operations and provide better coverage in the largest SAR region in the country.
Now is the time for Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan to get off his keister and provide our pilots and our SAR techs with the tools they need to do their jobs and get home safely.
Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence. Kennyco@sen.parl.gc.ca