Air Force accepts first new search-and-rescue plane despite issue with manuals

OTTAWA — The Canadian military has accepted the first of 16 new search-and-rescue planes despite outstanding issues with the aircraft’s manuals.

The new plane was officially handed over by European manufacturer Airbus to the Royal Canadian Air Force in Spain last week.

It was supposed to have delivered on Dec. 1, but that date was pushed back due to disagreements between the company, the Air Force and the Department of National Defence over the contents of the aircrafts’ manuals.

The manuals are thousands of pages thick and provide pilots, aircrew and technicians with necessary instructions and references for safely operating and maintaining the aircraft.

Despite the plane’s successful delivery, Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says the government is reviewing the manuals with the company to ensure they meet the military’s requirements.

He adds that the plane will remain in Spain until the middle of next year as Air Force members train on the aircraft and test it before flying it to Canadian Forces Base Comox in British Columbia.

“The acceptance of the first aircraft is one of many steps in this complex program to replace the current fixed-wing search and rescue fleets,” Le Bouthillier said in an email.

“We will continue to work with Airbus to ensure the acceptability of remaining work, including revision of technical manuals, completing training for the initial RCAF crews and conducting initial operational testing and evaluation in Spain in the first half of 2020.”

The federal government announced three years ago that it would pay Airbus $2.4-billion for 16 CC-295 aircraft to replace the Air Force’s ancient Buffalo search-and-rescue planes and an old version of the RCAF’s Hercules aircraft.

The deal, which includes an option to pay Airbus another $2.3-billion to maintain and support the plane for 15 years, had been held up as one of the few major successes for Canada’s beleaguered military procurement system in recent years.

In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger praised the new aircraft while underscoring the importance of the manuals as “really critical to safely operate the aircraft.”

“We’re working very collaboratively with the company,” he added. “In fact, we’re having regular senior-level discussions. We’re focused on right now reviewing some of the operational manuals — checklists, aircraft operations procedure.”

Meinzinger said the Air Force was also looking at possible contingencies should there be any extended delay in getting the new aircraft back to Canada. He said the Air Force wants the plane in Canada to conduct missions as soon as is safely possible.

Contingencies could include making adjustments with existing aircraft, some of which are already decades old and long overdue for replacement. Search-and-rescue is considered a “no-fail mission” for the military, meaning it must be able to respond no matter the circumstances.

“We’re focused on the front-end and getting the work done,” he said. “But we’re thinking about obviously … if there’s a three-month delay, six-month delay, what might that mean in terms of work we’ve got to start.”

The federal government ordered the military to start conducting search-and-rescue operations in 1947.

The government receives about 10,000 distress calls a year, and while the majority are handled by the provinces or territories, with police and volunteers tasked with responding, the military answers about 750 of the most high-risk calls.

Military search-and-rescue personnel often use specialized airplanes and helicopters to parachute or rappel into remote areas, such as mountains, the high Arctic or one of Canada’s three oceans to respond to plane crashes and sinking ships.

In a statement, Airbus said it had “worked hard with our customer to complete extensive inspections and acceptance flight test towards the delivery of this first” plane and to meet the government’s “demanding delivery milestones.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More Red Deer seniors could be dealing with homelessness, inadequate housing in future

Red Deer is short 200 affordable seniors’ housing units: Bridges study shows

Federal carbon tax is unconstitutional, says Alberta Court of Appeal

EDMONTON — The Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal… Continue reading

Red Deer man’s aggravated assault appeal says judge erred

Legal test for self defence not properly applied, says appeal

Farming organization recognizes climate crisis

National Farmers Union speaks to central Albertans

Red Deer RCMP looking for missing 15-year-old girl

Red Deer RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance to locate a… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Kenney says investor confidence needed after Teck mine project killed

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government is taking action… Continue reading

‘They loved life’: Family and friends give tearful tributes at Kobe Bryant at memorial

LOS ANGELES —Tears streamed down Vanessa Bryant’s face as she spoke about… Continue reading

Feds introduce bill dropping some restrictions on assisted dying

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has introduced legislation aimed at making it… Continue reading

StatCan says 3.2 million living in poverty, including 566,000 children

OTTAWA — Canada’s poverty rate has fallen to a historic low in… Continue reading

Teck withdraws application for Frontier mine, citing discourse over climate change

VANCOUVER — Teck Resources Ltd. has withdrawn its application for a massive… Continue reading

Alberta Appeal Court sides with Alberta on federal carbon tax

EDMONTON — The Alberta Court of Appeal gave opponents of the federal… Continue reading

Raptors Uprising GC offer second chance to gamer suspended for 2019 season

TORONTO — Raptors Uprising GC, the gaming arm of the Raptors, has… Continue reading

Most Read