Yellowknife hosted teams from five provinces and territories last weekend for a search-and-rescue training camp.
The Northwest Territories branch of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (or Casara), hosted the annual exercise for western Canadian crews. Around 100 participants and volunteers attended.
Dave Taylor, a volunteer navigator and director for Casara in the NWT and the Yellowknife zone commander, said it was a lot of work – but worth it.
“Not to give you a biased answer or anything, but I thought it went well,” said Taylor, who joined Casara in 1991, three years after it was founded. He began as a spotter and then became a navigator.
The weekend training camp saw crews featuring a pilot, navigator, and spotters going out on different routes to find targets or emergency location transmitters, while practising different search patterns.
Canadian Rangers from Whatì acted as one of the targets, as did members of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and several members of the public. Yellowknife-based 440 Transport Squadron contributed a Twin Otter and crew.
The NWT first hosted a training camp like this in 2003 and now hosts one every four to five years.
Jeff Anderson, a volunteer pilot for Casara, said: "I think everybody had a really good time and maybe learned a few things, so it couldn't have gone any better."
The training camp was planned to run from Friday afternoon to Sunday. Due to poor weather on Sunday, some crews had to end routes early or choose different routes.
Casara started in 1988 and is funded by the Department of National Defence for “training and operational readiness to assist them in looking for missing airplanes.” In the NWT, Casara has a partnership with the RCMP to help during searches.
“It's a lot cheaper for us to go look for somebody before they start calling a Hercules aircraft to come up out of Winnipeg, for example," said Anderson. "We know the Territories so we can get out there fairly quickly, normally."
Taylor urged residents to help out Casara by making a trip plan, telling someone where you're going, bringing a companion, and taking a satellite communications device with you when you head out into the wild.
Casara, meanwhile, is always looking for volunteer spotters and navigators. No experience is required.
"What you need is a good pair of eyes and a solid stomach," said Taylor.
"If you're prone to motion sickness you're probably better off with someone else … and you need to be reasonably fit. Lighter weight is good because weight is always an issue in an airplane."
If you are interested, contact Dave Taylor for more information.