We had a very successful SAREX on Saturday. The weather was absolutely perfect. We had two Air Teams and a Ground Team. The ELT was put out and all crews were tasked with finding it. Both aircraft took off from Lethbridge airport and headed to their designated areas. One aircraft was tasked to fly at 10000' and the second was tasked to fly at 8500'. The ground team was tasked to head southwest of Lethbridge to try to find the ELT.
The first aircraft was directed to head to Mercer field and commence an expanding square, once at 10000'. The second aircraft was directed to head to Warner and commence a creeping line ahead, once at 8500'. The second aircraft was to continue the creeping line ahead until the ELT was heard. Once heard they were to do an Aural Null to locate the ELT. The first aircraft was to do only two legs of the expanding square and then head directly to a given coordinate. Once the ELT was heard, they were to commence an Aural Null.
I can happily say that all the teams found the ELT and were asked to RTB. Once back at base, all the crews were debriefed and enjoyed a supplied lunch. After lunch we did some classroom work. Thank you to all team members for an enjoyable and effective day.
The following have been elected to the executive board:
Zone Commander: Sandi Blakely
Deputy Zone Commander: Brian Wilson
Treasurer: Lauretta Nordstrom
Secretary: Allison Herman
Zone Representative: Martin Nordstrom
The following have been appointed to various positions:
Chief Instructor: Martin Nordstrom
Chief Pilot: Al Blakely CD
Navigator/Pilot Instructor: Al Blakely CD
Spotter Instructor: MJ Blackadder
Safety Officer: Ed Kaula
Assistant Safety Officer: Bernie Schell
Quartermaster: Larry Oddan
SAR Awareness Organizer: Larry Oddan
Clothing: Brian Wilson
First Responder Trainer: Ruth Gronemeyer
Western Canada Sarex 2016
As most of you know, Pete and I were invited to join Casara Calgary for this event. We met Warren Arnholtz (Pilot) and Edward Tataryn (Navigator) at the High River airport on Thursday morning (Aug 4) and flew to Smithers. Our route was via Jasper, Valemount and Prince George with one delay of 1.5 hours at Vanderhoof to let a storm pass. On Friday we were joined by two crews each from BC and Saskatchewan and one each from Alberta and Manitoba for a total of seven crews.
PEP Air and the Smithers airport provided a large shop (normally housing all the airport emergency and maintenance vehicles) for search headquarters. The 50 plus attendees gathered here for general briefings, some meals and a place to receive further instructions. They also made available building spaces for briefing and debriefing. . The Smithers Casara team did a superb job of organizing this event and PEP Air was an awesome host.
The planned exercise involved three flights and one ELT ground search. Regrettably, weather led to a slow start leaving time for only two flights and the ground search. Our tasks involved a contour search, a multiple target search and an ELT search.
We were using a Cherokee 180 so the rocks on the contour search (our first of the day) were a little intimidating for us flat landers and we didn’t find any targets. As it turned out, there were no targets. The task was more to give us the experience of a mountain search. Pete and I learned very quickly that rocks, trees and the terrain made for much more difficult spotting. We made several loops looking at white objects, which often only appear for seconds before vanishing from site again in the dense forest.
Our second task was to find multiple targets in a specific area. Some were hidden very well. There is quite a difference between picking an unusual object to pinpoint and trying to find a specific target. Our excuse for not finding two of them was our “bingo time to RTB” story and we are sticking to it.
The third air task that some crews did was an ELT search, which proved interesting. All crews that did this one followed the valley north of the airport but the ELT was actually over a small mountain to the west of the valley so they were actually picking up the ELT from the ground search back at the airport. This caused considerable confusion and resulted in no crew actually finding the ELT they were looking for. Had they increased their altitude by 1000 to 1500 feet, they would have picked up the ELT they were supposed to find. Once again different than the flat ground we are used to in the prairies.
Finally, we did the ELT ground search at the airport, as all crews did, ending in second place by a mere 6 seconds.
In the end, Paul (pilot) and his crew from La Ronge, Saskatchewan placed first in the overall event followed by Vancouver and Kamloops crews.
Despite not placing in the top three, we learned a lot about flying, navigating and spotting in treed mountain areas.
The issues that became apparent, were limited turning areas, sometimes well past the spotted target making it necessary to find it again and again. This proves the importance of relaying to your crew as much info about the adjacent area near the sighting as you can, while you have it in view. When searching close to elevated rock or hills on your right for example, it is not possible to immediately fly to the right so the left bank to provide sufficient space to turn right, causes the target on the right to quickly disappear from view creating a need to find it again.
All in all we found the entire trip and exercise very interesting and a good learning experience.
We left Smithers Sunday (right after breakfast at the airport) and worked our way back to Prince George where we turned south for Quesnel, Williams Lake and Kamloops due to weather issues to the east (Valemount/Jasper area). Kamloops became the end of the line for Sunday with Revelstoke, and Golden storms and bad weather to the south through Vernon, Castlegar, Nelson, Creston, Cranbrook and Crowsnest Pass as well. Fortunately, on Monday Warren and Ed got us safely through the south route back to High River. Apart from the storm dodging we did, nearly all of our flying was smooth, clear and enjoyable with a breathtaking view, thanks to our Calgary flying crew. As it turned out, these weather issues forced us to see a significant part of British Columbia in four days.
On Monday 11 Jan 16, Lethbridge Zone 1 received a call from the FSS at Lethbridge airport, that they had received an ELT signal. We started the ball in motion and contacted JRCC Trenton. They authorized us to proceed with an expanding square search in the Lethbridge area. The call came in around 1300 hr that afternoon, and we had our crew assembled and ready to go by 1400 hr. We were ultimately airborn by 1415 hr. We did the assigned Expanding Square search with no ELT heard. After 2.5 hours the search was called off by JRCC Trenton and we returned to base. We have proven once again that Lethbridge CASARA Zone 1 is ready and able to help at a moments notice. To all the crew that assembled and helped with the search, thank you for your committment.
On Sunday 10 Jan 16, We had a Hercules aircraft visit us from Winnipeg. It was a planned visit to qualify some of our members to be spotters for the military. The visit was actually supposed to happen on Saturday, but the weather was below minimums, so they diverted to Calgary. We certified 13 members and this brings us to having just about everyone as certified military spotters. Once again Lethbridge CASARA Zone 1 showed its metal, and had a great turnout for this event. We even managed to get all the files in order in the office. It was a great day.
Zone 1 Lethbridge had a great opportunity to simulate an airplane crash for a Search and Rescue C130 crew from 435 Squadron based out of Winnipeg. After several weeks of tentative planning we arranged for a parcel of land about 1 mile north of Diamond City where we could land a plane and set it up to look like an actual crash site as viewed from the air.
The scenario would be that a husband pilot and his wife were on a flight from the Nanton area to a local strip northeast of Lethbridge. Just as they were nearing the Old Man river a large flock of geese lifted off and the plane had a major bird strike which lead to the complete loss of the passenger side wing. The pilot suffered a broken neck and passed. His wife suffered many cuts, a fractured leg but was still able to move around. The ELT was set off on impact and immediately reported to a C130 crew that happened to be training in the Area.
So starting about 9 am we had Brian fly in his beautiful Avid Magnum and land in the 80 acre farm field. We folded up the passenger side wing and laid a white tarp to simulate the second wing several hundred feet away.
Move forward to 1500 hr, fake blood is applied, the deceased pilot is hanging against the seat belt after his wife had opened the door to check on him. His wife is limping around in shock, bleeding from her possibly broken left arm. She tried the airplane radio but it's not working. Soon a C130 appears overhead, she waves an emergency blanket she has found and it is quickly apparent she has been seen. The C130 circles several times dropping altitude, ribbons are dropped to check the wind and on the next pass a radio is dropped, landing about 30 feet behind the plane. As the conversation between the aircrew and the wounded wife proceeds it is determined that SarTechs should jump and render 1st aid.
Very soon 2 SarTechs parachute down and begin to assess her injuries. The SarTechs have her lay down and soon treat her bleeding arm wound. As this is happening one of the SarTechs confirms the husband is deceased and returns to the injured lady. They check her vital signs and administer an IV. They proceed to bind her legs together believing her left leg is broken. They put her in a neck brace and prepare her for transport by ground teams that are about 10 minutes away.
Naturally, this was all about training and one of CASARA's principal roles is to be of service to the Search and Rescue team from our Canadian Military. During exercises of this type it helps our CASARA volunteers to witness and see the hands on experience and training that SarTech teams must be prepared to do in actual crash circumstances. These exercise help SarTech crews maintain the highest level of proficiency and readiness. CASARA volunteers also gain a deeper understanding into what may be experienced at an accident scene and most importantly what the injured person might be experiencing.
A big thank you to Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen for allowing us to use his property, to Tijana Martin from the Lethbridge Herald and to Sarolta Sakiw of Global News for their great coverage of the event, to Rob Boras and Alison Herman from Zone 1 for playing our accident victims and to Brian from Zone 1 for the use of his plane.
I would also like to thank the C130 crew, SarTechs, Mcpl Carl Portman and Mcpl Donovan Ball, Capt Kevin Coulombe for organizing the event and lastly all of the rest of Zone 1 Lethbridge who were present and helped create the scene. Wes, Al, MJ and Brian from Zone 1 also had the opportunity to ride the C130 and were on board throughout this exercise.
Zone 1 Lethbridge
Zone 1 Lethbridge, has had 3 actual search events so far. The first, back on 07 Jun 15, unfortunately did not yield any result, as the ELT went silent. Nevertheless we tried very hard and it was an experience we will all remember. It is my belief that the same ELT was found two weeks later by a Red Deer crew. An old plane in a hangar perhaps set it off by high temperatures.
Our second actual on 08 Aug 15, was resolved in about 15 minutes. Turned out to be an airplane at CYQL that was airborne locally and was quickly determined to have an active ELT on board. The plane was requested to return to CYQL and land. The ELT was turned off and the problem was solved.
Our third actual, occurred on the evening of 20 Aug 15. Crews where called to search for an ELT. The call from JRCC Trenton, came in at about 15:30 hr local and we were airborne with one plane and a ground team by 16:50 hr local. By 20:00 hr local, 3 hours and 10 minutes later, the ELT was located and turned off under the supervision of our ground team. As the Zone Commander, I am very proud of the team effort involved in finding this ELT. The owner of the airplane was very surprised to see a CASARA ground team in his yard and learn that CASARA is very much active in Southern Alberta. I am sure he will be checking his plane every time he is doing maintenance or flying, to ensure we will never have to tell him it is his ELT that has alerted the Canadian Search and Rescue system.
CASARA Lethbridge had the opportunity to have a booth at the Lethbridge Air Show this last weekend. It was a great show Friday afternoon and evening and another terrific show on Saturday. We had the chance to speak to a lot of pilots and meet the general public in a substantial way. We conducted our Sar Awareness Pilot Safety Survey and had the best results to date. When we started this survey in Cardston, the result was 56% of the pilots having a better than 5 out of 10 result. At Vulcan the result moved up to 69%, but the Lethbridge Air Show with the largest sampling to date had a 94% result. I am not sure exactly how to interrupt this information but it appears that the more concentrated the flying community the better the result. This is very interesting. Lethbridge has a very active flying club with the Lethbridge Sport Flyers, there is the excellent general aviation flight instructors at Roland Morton’s, Excel Flight Training and ultralight flight instruction with Jim Laycock at the Lethbridge Adventure flying center. It is very possible that these factors play a big role in safe flying practises.
CASARA Lethbridge sent two airplane crews to Vulcan's annual fly in breakfast on Sunday 19 Jul 15. It was a great day, with a terrific breakfast and enjoyed another great opportunity to meet many more pilots from Southern Alberta. Our crews were able to speak to 16 pilots and we again did our pilot SAR Awareness Safety survey. The results were impressive. We had 2 pilots with a perfect 10 out of 10 score. We gave Geoff, a pilot from Lethbridge, a CASARA portfolio and a large survival blanket. The second perfect score was our own Al Blakely, Zone 1's chief pilot. Way to go Al. Your set a good example for us all. Over all we had 99% of the pilots surveyed with a better than 50% result on the survey. You can check out more information about our SAR Awareness program by clicking "more" above and then "sar awareness". CASARA Zone 1 will have a full display at the Lethbridge International Air Show this coming weekend and we hope to see you there. Stop by our tent beside Excel Flight Training, who by the way, is our airplane service provider.
We had a very successful training exercise on Sat 18 Jul 15. We followed a route from Lethbridge to Vulcan to Pincher Creek, then back to Lethbridge. We had two aircraft and a ground crew. The first leg both aircraft did a track crawl. The second leg saw one aircraft do a contour search and the second one a creeping line ahead. Finally on the third leg, one aircraft did a sector search and the other did a track crawl. They both also did an aural null on an ELT. Also congratulations to Brandon for qualifying as a Navigator. Way to go Brandon.