OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 21, 2012) - Information regarding the use of a military aircraft at the end of January 2012 was recently tabled in Parliament by Minister MacKay. A Cormorant training flight that flew from CFB Gander to St. John's on 30 January 2012 is listed in this documentation. January 30th is the same day that a ground search and rescue operation was being led by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for Burton Winters. My intent with this communication is to provide context to this flight in light of the tragic passing of Burton Winters.
The Canadian Forces have consistently stated the operational decision not to deploy a Cormorant was based on a number of complex and inter-related factors to include: weather, aircraft availability, distance to the search area and the requirement to respond to an aeronautical and/or maritime search and rescue call which is the primary responsibility of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces.
The Cormorant in question, the region's primary SAR standby aircraft, left CFB Gander on a scheduled training flight at 8:30am that day. The conduct of training by SAR standby crews is entirely normal and does not impact SAR reaction time. Indeed, It allows crews to maintain their high level of readiness. The first call for assistance came from the Province to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) at 9:12am. Acknowledging that the Cormorant and crew on the training flight were in fact also the SAR standby response, and immediately available for SAR missions when required, they were not tasked by the JRCC owing to the factors already stated. Had the Cormorant been tasked to participate in the search, owing to the distances involved it would have first needed to refuel in Goose Bay and would not have arrived until after other civilian aircraft were already on scene. The fact that a training flight was conducted did not in any way impact the Canadian Force's ability to respond and was not a factor in the decision making process on that day.
Military personnel have worked with the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and have updated their call-back procedures so there is better coordination and communications between all involved in Search and Rescue missions. In addition, Minister MacKay directed the Canadian Forces to add another Griffon helicopter to the fleet at CFB Goose Bay to provide greater operational flexibility by increasing the potential of having serviceable aircraft to support operations and training.
In closing, the Canadian Forces stand ready to assist Provincial and Territorial authorities whenever they are called upon and able to do so.
Lieutenant-General Walter Semianiw