Last month I was invited to fly during a training mission with 442 "SNAKE" Transport and Rescue Squadron in their CH-149 Cormorant. This rare opportunity to witness up close and personal the skill and professionalism of the Canadian Forces SAR (Search and Rescue) community, made for some unique images of "SNAKE 904" and its crew in the demanding enviroment that they fly in 24-7-365 days a year.
The quick flight from home base at CFB Comox to the training area only took a few minutes with Captain Brad Steele and LT Chris Hulser, a US Coast Guard exchange pilot, at the controls. After a few approaches to evaluate the landing zone in the training area, we landed near a stream with mountains and trees on either side of us. As soon as I was in place on the ground, the Cormorant departed the area leaving one SARTECH, MCpl. Janick Gilbert, on the ground with me who would simulate the injured victim. "SNAKE 904"- 442 Squadron use the call sign SNAKE and the serial number of their aircraft-returned to the area, the second SARTECH, Sgt. Daryl Lecompte quickly repelled from the Cormorant by the use of a drop line. Once the SARTECH was safely on the ground the Cormorant departed the area to allow the SARTECH a safer area to access the "victim" - the downwash created by the Cormorant is quite significant and the amount of sand that was being kicked up in my face made photography difficult, this is one of the times when the use of a lend filter is a must as it's better to wreck a $50.00 filter than a lens over $1000.00!
The Cormorant returned shortly to pick up the SARTECH and "survivor", using the buddy system on the hoist, both men exited the area quickly and safely as the Flight Engineer in training Cpl. Jeff Blundell and Flight Engineer MCpl. Brian Schonberg operated the hoist. After everyone was back in the Cormorant we did some sightseeing in the nearby mountains including Mt. Washington ski resort. I had the opportunity to sit in one of the spotter windows during this part of the flight, these are occupied by the SARTECH'S during SAR missions as the large bubble windows allow for terrific field of view. As I took in the beauty of the area we live in I could not stop and think of how these men and women conduct a SAR mission in this terrain, it must literally be finding a needle in a haystack. The Canadian Forces SAR community is recognized as one of the best, if not the best SAR professionals in the world working in the some of the most difficult terrain and weather conditions found anywhere.
I would like to thank 19 Wing PAO Captain Cheryl Robinson, Sgt. Eileen Redding and the crew of SNAKE 904 - Captain Brad Steele, LT Chris Hulser US Coast Guard, Flight Engineer (Training) Cpl. Jeff Blundell, Flight Engineer MCpl. Brian Schonberg, SARTECH'S Sgt. Daryl Lecompte and MCpl. Janick Gilbert for their support to arrange this photo op.