Search and rescue crews take unusual passenger on board

News Article / August 15, 2013 / Project number: RCAF-20130815-02

Search and rescue crews of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CC-115 Buffalo at 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 19 Wing Comox, B.C., are used to dropping things out the back of their aircraft, such as life rafts, flares and even search and rescue technicians (SAR techs), but it isn’t everyday that something drops in.

That is precisely what happened during an exercise near Sandspit in the Haida Gwaii Islands on July 9. The Buffalo crew was practicing dropping parachutes laden with rescue supplies and SAR Techs on a remote beach to simulate the response to a coastline emergency while members of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) stood by to receive the bundles and parachutists.

“We had already finished the message drop at 150 feet above ground level and had dropped a bundle of survival supplies from 300 feet,” explained co-pilot Captain Henry Graham. The SAR Techs were preparing to parachute onto the scene when over the intercom the pilots heard word that there was a little bird in the cabin of the plane.

“The bird eventually hopped its way to the cockpit and landed on my finger while I was still flying the plane” said Capt Graham. The Buffalo crew postponed the parachute drop long enough for Capt Graham and aircraft commander Capt Andrew Doepner to receive an “on-the-fly” flying lesson from their new feathered friend.

Once the bird was secured on board, the crew continued with their mission. From approximately 2,000 feet above the ground the SAR Techs parachuted onto the small beach where they were picked up by their colleagues in the CCG. After landing in Sandspit the bird was carefully released and continued on its way as the SAR Techs boarded the plane ready for their next mission.

“We were flying low and slow with the door open; the bird must have gotten caught in our wake and sucked in the back door.” Capt Doepner later remarked. “He was a pretty lucky bird.”

 The CC-115 Buffalo and CH-149 Cormorant helicopter crews of 442 Squadron are tasked with providing maritime and aeronautical search and rescue services for an area that encompasses British Columbia, the Yukon and 600 nautical miles beyond Canada’s coast from their base at 19 Wing in Comox, British Columbia.

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