New SAR plane on display in Comox

It has toured the world, beginning in Seville, Spain, passing through Asia before opening its doors at 19 Wing Comox Monday.

The Brazilian Air Force has taken its Airbus C-295 across the globe to various militaries for display, and visited Comox as part of a tour of Canadian air force wings with primary search and rescue squadrons.

In December, the Government of Canada announced the C-295 would be Canada’s new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, replacing the aging CC-130H Hercules and CC-115 Buffalo fleets.

Additionally, 19 Wing Comox will be the recipient of a new training centre and operational training unit for SAR.

“This plane provides the current technology advantage from the Buffalo and this plane provides the sensor sweep that will enhance the search capability from what is being done based on the Buffalo,” explained Gerardo Gomez, Airbus World Team Member.

The range of the C-295 is significantly longer then the Buffalo – up to 3,000 nautical miles – added Gomez, and noted the lifespan of the aircraft is about 30 years.

The Comox training centre will include a full flight simulator of the plane, which will be manufactured by Montreal-based CAE. Construction will be begin next year and the centre should be completed by 2019.

Lt. Col. Bryn Elliott, commanding officer of 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 19 Wing said after flying the Buffalo for 50 years, “it’s nice to see something new on the ground.”

The sensor sweep is brand new; I’m really looking forward to it. It is a difference piece of equipment, so we will be flying search and rescue differently than we have been before.”

Elliott explained 19 Wing will have five of the new aircraft at the base – two for the training unit and three for the squadron.

He said the planes will be delivered to Spain in 2019 for Canadian test crews to sort out the particular details for customization for the Canadian Air Force.

“(In) 2020, we will see the first rubber on the ramp in Comox.”

The planes will feature electro-optic infrared, which Elliott noted will “take a bit of the search out of search and rescue. It’s a sensor package that will have infrared, we’ll have sophisticated radar, we’ll have sophisticated cameras on board. Right now, we’re trusting our eyes to do the searching, and this one we’ll have both our eyes as well as technology behind us.”