Most of the people who have been talking about search and rescue the past couple of years – especially the politicians – know absolutely nothing about the subject at all.
At last, we have comments from someone who knows the subject from direct experience.
Steve Reid is a retired helicopter pilot and was recently the commanding officer of 103 Squadron in Gander. He knows what it means to risk his life for others. He’s also got a letter in the Gander Beacon.
A 30-minute (daytime)/two-hour (off hours) posture provides unfair representation of the actual reaction times that SAR crews routinely achieve. For 103 Squadron, a typical response from the flight line averages 19 minutes or less, while a quiet hour response usually takes just under an hour.
On the constant comparison with fire departments:
It would be great if all it took to launch a SAR aircraft was to turn a key to start an engine and then race down a highway, but this is not the case. There are important factors to consider each time, such as en route weather conditions, air traffic control obligations and other specific mission requirements
He also talks about the growing mission for SAR since the 1940s and with it, the growing expectations:
And with this evolution, there are new pressures to contend with, such as an implied obligation for 103 Squadron helicopters to remain postured on the island in support of offshore activities, not to mention the long-standing support that the RCAF has provided to Newfoundland and Labrador for cases that fall under provincial jurisdiction. These include support to ground SAR cases, which encompass all other forms of distress that are not automatically classified as aeronautical or maritime distress as well as humanitarian efforts such as hospital-to-hospital patient transfers. Recognizing that Newfoundland and Labrador has unique geographic, meteorological and accessibility challenges, the number of cases for which the RCAF provides supplemental support outside of its federal mandate far exceeds all other provinces. Most have dedicated resources assigned o meet their specific provincial obligations.
Read the whole letter. It brings a reward you cannot get from anywhere else.