Plane crash at the heart of search and rescue exercise

Search and Rescue exercise

Search and Rescue Technicians from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron discuss their plan of action on the ground as a Cormorant helicopter comes in to land on top of a mountain near Hope, British Columbia during an annual Search and Rescue Exercise.

442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from 19 Wing Comox and local Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) members conducted a search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in Abbotsford under the control of Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Victoria from Feb. 25 to 28.
The team practiced their collective ability to respond to a plane crash.

“This exercise highlights the importance of partnerships and interoperability within the SAR community. Collective search and rescue efforts between the Canadian Armed Forces, other government departments and volunteer organizations help promote education and training, which is fundamental to saving lives,” said RAdm Bill Truelove, Victoria Search and Rescue Region Commander and the commander of Joint Task Force Pacific.

The squadron provided CH-149 Cormorant helicopters and CC-115 Buffalo aircraft. More than 70 members from the squadron and 19 Wing Comox participated, along with 35 CASARA members who provided aircraft and assistance in the exercise. Aircrews practiced homing in on emergency locator beacons, parachuting to crash scenes and evacuating patients from remote areas.

Search coordinators were located at a command centre in Comox, deployed air and maintenance crews were in Abbotsford, while RCAF Cormorant helicopters, Buffalo airplanes and CASARA aircraft were launched to the Hope and Chilliwack areas of the Lower Mainland to conduct the exercise.

Members of the local CASARA provided their own aircraft and local knowledge to assist 442 Squadron personnel. CASARA aircraft are used in a search role and CASARA personnel can be used as spotters onboard military aircraft.

“When searching for an aircraft in a remote part of British Columbia, it is sometimes necessary to move our SAR aircraft closer to the search area to increase efficiency and effectiveness,” said Maj Geoff Miedema, 442 Squadron SAREX coordinator. “During the exercise, we worked with our SAR partners, like CASARA, as we would in real life.”

Cormorant and Buffalo aircraft from 442 Squadron are JRCC Victoria’s primary means for aviation SAR responses in the Victoria search and rescue region (SRR). The region includes 920,000 square kilometres of mainly mountainous terrain in British Columbia and the Yukon, extending approximately 600 nautical miles offshore into the Pacific Ocean.

JRCC Victoria is one of three JRCCs in Canada operated by the Canadian Armed Forces in conjunction with the Canadian Coast Guard; the others are in Trenton, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The JRCCs, jointly staffed by trained Canadian Forces and Canadian Coast Guard personnel, are manned 24 hours a day.

-19 Wing Comox Public Affairs

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