Local residents may want to keep an eye on the skies this Saturday in hopes of catching a flyover of a RCAF CC-115 Buffalo search and rescue aircraft from Comox.
Barring an emergency, the bright yellow aircraft will be staging training exercises with members of the Smithers Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) group.
The Smithers group is one of three CASARA teams that provide support to the RCAF for search and rescue efforts in the Northwest. The other two are located in Vanderhoof and on Haida Gwaii.
Four Houston residents are among the 16-member Smithers CASARA team trained as qualified spotters doing monthly training in small aircraft or on paper, but spotting for the RCAF, which is responsible for search and rescue in Canadian airspace, is a separate thing, explained Lynn Van Cadsand, the Northwest Zone SAR commander.
“We work with 442 Squadron on a regular basis doing searches and so on,” said Cadsand. “They’re just coming up on the 21st to do some spotter training.”
“My team is all qualified and certified as spotters, so they’ve done their required hours, plus some, and then the military aircraft comes up and qualifies them to fly in a military aircraft,” she said.
“So, if we had a really big search happening and the military needed extra spotters in their aircraft, which they usually do, you don’t just put anyone in, you have to be a qualified certified military spotter as well.”
The Buffalo is ideally suited for search and rescue in B.C. as it can take off and land on the most rugged terrain and in areas as short as a soccer field. It can carry 41 fully equipped soldiers and has a range of 2,240 kilometres.
All six of the RCAF’s CC-115s fly out of Comox.
The planes are, however, 50 years old and slated to be replaced, along with the older model CC-130 Hercules transports, by the Airbus CC-295.
Second Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, a 19 Wing Comox public affairs officer, said Comox is expecting delivery of the first CC-295 in spring 2020 and with training and transition considerations should be in service some time in 2021.
The Northwest Zone of CASARA is looking for more volunteers, both spotters and pilots with airplanes to beef up its team in the region. Van Cadsand said interested parties can call her directly at Ph. 250-847-1162.