Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced last week that another CH-146 Griffon helicopter will be established at 5 Wing Goose Bay.
A news release states that with the addition, the three Griffon helicopters will provide utility helicopter capabilities at 5 Wing. This third aircraft increases the likelihood of an available aircraft to support secondary tasking such as Search and Rescue operations when circumstances warrant.
“A third Griffon aircraft at 5 Wing Goose Bay will have an immediate positive impact on the operational readiness of the base and provide flexibility to decision makers on the use of Canadian Forces assets in the region,” MacKay said. “This helicopter represents another resource that can contribute to Canada’s Search and Rescue system in support of primary responders in this region."
Lt.-Col. Andrew Fleming, 5 Wing Commander, that “Adding to the complement of Griffons at 5 Wing Goose Bay will greatly improve the squadron's ability to conduct and maintain aircrew training, proficiency and experience.”
The primary role of 444 Combat Support Squadron is to provide utility helicopter airlift and personnel recovery in support of military air operations at 5 Wing Goose Bay. Similar Combat Support capabilities are established at 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake.
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and MP Peter Penashue told the Labradorian Wednesday the helicopter is not new, but being transferred from another area.
Currently, there are two CH-146 Griffon’s stationed on 5 Wing Goose Bay.
Questions about search and rescue in Labrador, the rest of the province, and in Canada in general have been raised following the death of 14-year-old Burton Winters in Labrador earlier this year.
Winters died on the sea ice near Makkovik after getting lost on his snowmobile.
Two months ago a review which was released by National Defense into the military’s response in the search for Winters revealed that calls for assistance in the search from GSAR could not be provided from two of the current Griffon helicopters stationed on 5 Wing as both were grounded for maintenance issues and unable to respond.
“By having three helicopters there, it reduces the chance of mechanical downtime,” Minister Penashue said.
The Minister said at this time there are no plans to add additional staff on the base.
“We have the people, mechanics and the pilots and infrastructure in 5 Wing Goose Bay and so what that means is that there will be an additional helicopter to look after and operate at 5 Wing Goose Bay.”
The third helicopter will provide greater operational flexibility by increasing the potential of having serviceable aircraft to support operations and training. It will also increase the availability of aircraft with which to support the squadron’s secondary roles, including support to Search and Rescue missions. Any Canadian Forces aircraft can be called upon to contribute to Search and Rescue missions when necessary, in addition to those permanently assigned to this role. Ground Search and Rescue in Canada is conducted under the legal authority of the individual provinces and territories. This provincial and territorial authority extends to the provision of air services in the conduct of ground search and rescue.
The announcement also cames on the eve the base preparing for a scheduled Military meeting between international Arctic Military nations at 5 Wing.