To be eligible as a CASARA pilot, individuals must have a minimum of 150 pilot-in-command (PIC) hours in aircraft of the same type used in CASARA operations. (Most CASARA pilots have far more than this minimum requirement.) Pilots are responsible for the safe conduct of CASARA flights, including all aspects of flight planning, execution, and crew management and welfare, in accordance with CASARA policies and general aviation regulations. CASARA pilots are reimbursed for use of their own aircraft according to a formula based on horsepower and fuel costs; pilots who rent aircraft have their direct rental costs reimbursed. CASARA pilots must pass an initial qualification examination, and are required to fly a minimum of 24 hours per year to maintain their currency. Pilots must also meet general aviation currency regulations and medical requirements applicable to the certificate they hold.
CASARA navigators use aviation and other maps and charts, and various CASARA forms to plan search flights or vehicle searches. They also assist the pilot to manage crew resources during searchs, keep records of the search (including tracks and search patterns), and otherwise document the search planning and execution process. Navigators are often pilots, but this is not a firm requirement. Ability to read maps, maintain situational awareness, manage crew resources, understand and operate technologies such as GPSs, radios, and signal homers, and deal with a generally high workload are important navigator requirements.
Spotters are the eyes of CASARA. In search and rescue situations, Spotters are the most essential members of any search crew: they must see the survivors or identify the incident site, by detecting signs and signals associated with the event.
In CASARA search activities, spotters ride in the backseat of the aircraft or the vehicle and, while on task, scan the ground for evidence of a crash, or of the presence of survivors. CASARA Spotter training includes scanning techniques, search patterns, search planning, crew communications, survival and first aid, and ground search techniques and technologies. Spotters should have 20/20 eyesight (corrected or uncorrected - glasses are fine), and should be fit and in good health.
In some situations, CASARA conducts ground searches using various technologies mounted on vehicles, and some members "specialize" in ground search techniques and equipment. Other ground roles include assisting during exercises, placing targets and signaling to aircraft (so Spotters can practice their search techniques), and various administrative roles within the organization. Individuals who are unable to fly may still have a role in CASARA if they are interested in any of these ground-based positions.
Radio operators require an aviation radio operator's license, or a radio operator's certificate - aeronautical (issued by Industry Canada). CASARA offers the Industry Canada certification course, and all members are eligible. Radio operators assist at all exercises and taskings, to assure good communications among all involved in any CASARA operations. Equipment includes both fixed-base radios and handheld transceivers.
The duty officer is the initial point of contact, for either the Canadian Forces Rescue Coordination Center or local authorities, in order to mobilize the Search and Rescue services provided by CASARA Lethbridge. This highly demanding role requires the individual filling it to be available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Members qualified for this position will be placed on a rotation, acting as the duty officer once every few months and will typically maintain their on-call status for a period 2 - 4 weeks at a time. Those filling this role will generally have several years of experience as a CASARA member, and will often be qualified to perform more than one function (Pilot/Navigator for example).
These individuals develop and implement a plan, based on the circumstances and resources available, to ensure that a search is conducted in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Their responsibilities include everything from selecting the most appropriate search pattern for a given area and coordinating efforts with other agencies, to the scheduling of crew and aircraft. Members who have qualified as a Search Coordinator often have several years of experience with the organization and are trained to perform several roles.