BRS Slight Ship Patch

On Exchange with the Armada de Chile

In 2013, I participated in the Royal Canadian Navy’s OP REGULUS and went on exchange to Chile to sail with their Navy for five months. Six freshly minted Sub Lieutenants from the RCN’s Venture training school volunteered to head south on the second rotation of officers to be sent to the South American nation. This is my enhanced report on the deployment.

Below is my original report I submitted to the Navy detailing my time aboard BRS Slight. It is not as scathing as the reports of the other officers who were on my ROTO as I wanted my message to be heard in the hopes of fixing the program for future participants sent to the Armada. But my observations along with those of the other officers never surfaced after submission. As I am no longer in the military, I can report the unvarnished opinions and impressions of my time down south.

OP REGULUS – Chile Report, July 2013

The main points from my official report were as follows:

  • The language barrier was the principal reason for the majority of challenges with this deployment. Personnel should be selected with language abilities in mind ahead of time. There should be at least one dedicated English speaker on board their Chilean ship.
  • Officers should not be farmed out to buoy tenders and hydrography vessels. The tasks that I was asked to do could have been done by a MARS III student. And although somewhat interesting, buoy tending is pretty boring to continuously watch when you have no duties.
  • There should have been more of a plan to involve me in the operations of the ship but with the language barrier and the crew being too busy with work-ups, there was not much for me to do and no one willing or able to help me.
Memento of my stay on BRS Slight

General Impressions of the Chilean Navy

While in Chile, I kept a daily log of my thoughts and activities. These points come directly from my 2013 notes.

  • The personnel, including senior officers, are somewhat childish in their behavior. This is possibly due to the Chilean culture but it continues to the Wardroom at inappropriate times. The worst case was a Sergeant asking if I slept with prostitutes and when I replied no, he accused me of being gay and having sex with the Mayordomo (the Wardroom steward).
  • The ship’s company had almost zero interest in learning anything about the RCN’s customs, procedures, methods, culture or language. I would watch their soccer games and they would have no interest in hockey.
  • I had no mentorship. If there was any sort of task for me, I would be told to do it with little or nothing in the way of explanation, guidance or resources. Of course, everything was in Spanish. “You must learn Spanish” was the phrase of choice.
  • The ship could have benefited from having a designated Cox’n. It seemed as if all the discipline ran through the Captain.
  • My crew wasn’t very detail oriented with little in the way of daily briefings. There were only small attempts to make sure I understood what was going on even when it should have been clear I wasn’t comprehending the tasking.
  • Except for about a month, there was little attempt to learn or converse at all in English. They were determined to keep me immersed in Spanish. Which was fine but without the occasional context explained to me in English, learning their language was slow and painful.
  • The Chileans were firm slaves to routine and tradition. Each meal on ship or ashore was the same depending on the day. Pollo (chicken) and fries, must be Sunday noon. Thursday dinner was their special navy meal of an Empanada de Horno, boiled potatoes, some stewing meat and re-hydrated apricots. (Our Canadian term for the fruit was old man testicles.) They took a couple of late 19th century naval heroes (Commander Arturo Prat & Sergeant Juan de Dios Aldea) and have made gods out of them, to be emulated and worshiped. They take no truck with joking or questioning their beliefs and rituals. (A ‘Pratfall’ wasn’t something to kid them about.)
  • Further to the last point, they have very short and very long memories. As for short, the Captain would absolutely spaz out on an officer for half an hour but all is forgotten by the evening. As for long, the Chileans hold grudges forever going back to the country’s formative years when they were at war with everyone else on the continent.
  • Their personnel are very hard workers but to the fault that they are somewhat proud of being away from their families and loved ones so much.
  • My crew was homophobic and mercilessly teased others who were effeminent.
  • Although my ship had no females onboard, the Navy had recently started allowing them to serve on their ships. The rumour was woman would serve aboard ships for a short period of time and after the experiment ‘failed’ would be removed.

Chilean Naval Procedures


Below are my observations on how my assigned ship BRS Slight went about her business of navigating the Chilean waters:

The OOW would nap and let the 2OOW navigate by GPS or Radar



PI’s = Parallel Indexes, W/O = Wheel Overs


An example of navigating using a paper chart as they didn’t use electronic charts

Coming Alongside

Bridges of RCN ships are quiet and orderly. Chilean ships are not!

Small Boat Procedures

Some Thoughts on the Language Barrier

I put aside some time and thought into why Chilean Spanish was so difficult to learn. I was well aware that I was going to have issues and had turned down the deployment several times because of this reason. I was asked to be a last second replacement and consented to go being the good sailor that I was.

Below were what I observed to be issues for someone learning the language:

  • Chileans speak super-quick and slur their words. My term for their speech is papas purée (mashed potatos).
  • They continuously use country specific slang. In Santiago, the subway cards are ‘Byps’ because of the sound they make when passed over the scanner. Of course, the Navy has a whole language of its own with no dictionary or references.
  • They do not pronounce ‘S’s in the middle of a word, Esmeralda = Emeralda.
  • They drop whole syllables, Estribor = Tribor & Babor = Bor (Starboard & Port)
  • They also tend to mumble and every other sentence contains the term Weon. Weon has multiple uses such as fucker, dude, bro, buddy, ass, etc. The female term is Weonita.
Naval Coat of Arms


Due to their military structure it turned out that I hold the honour of being the oldest Subteniente that ever served with the Armada de Chile. The Chilean Admirals were quite impressed with my résumé which included being a Rescue Diver, a military pilot and now a naval officer. One of them compared me to James Bond 007. I attempted to be very politic during those meetings as I didn’t want to offend my hosts. But I believe that the RCN should have heeded the reports coming back from their officers. If you read between the lines of one OP REGULUS Chilean public report from 2015, the issues I have described, remain.

The participants knew that part of the mission was to help open up better diplomatic relations with a possible South American naval ally. I believe that making us better naval officers wasn’t as high a priority. I just think the whole program could have been run better so that the officers could have gained a better experience other than excessive drinking and sleeping with prostitutes.

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RCN’s Atlantic Fleet Diving Unit

Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) FDU(A) played host to numerous members of RUSI(NS), the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team, and other assorted diver, military and community associations at their Shearwater facilities on the morning of March 15, 2017. Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander William Barter and Operations Officer Joel Cormier gave a briefing to the gathering on the roles, responsibilities and activities of the unit. This was followed up by an informative tour of their gear and equipment.

FDU(A)’s hangar located at NA Jetty, Shearwater, NS

For the general public and even for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the unit tends to be a hidden dynamo in the rough. Located over with their Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) cousins at Shearwater close to the Yacht Club, they are removed from the attention and activity that takes place at Her Majesty’s Canadian (HMC) Dockyard. Infrequently, their NA jetty sees use if a Sea King requires hoisting from a ship’s deck or if a visiting foreign submarine needs to come alongside. Ship’s companies know the unit as the place to send their Ship’s Team Divers for training. Frigates engaged in Force Protection training frequently ‘fight’ off the unit’s Fast Attack Craft when they are in the vicinity of Maugher’s Beach lighthouse. Occasionally, the unit’s dive tender vessel can be seen transiting the Narrows enroute to their demolitions site in Roach Cove up in Bedford Basin. But in the course of the briefing, the audience soon realized this tranquil exterior hid a bustling organization active in Canada and abroad.

FDU(A) divers conduct Ice Diving training during OP NUNALIVUT – Photo courtesy of RCN

At present, the unit has 111 Clearance Divers and support personnel with a mixture of officers, Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs) and a few civilian administrative staff. The unit also continuously employs a substantial number of Reservists. During 2016, they deployed personnel to 15 locations worldwide and plan on at least 11 deployments this year. Locally, they are constantly on call to use their specialized skills with Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) responding to cases involving military Unexploded Ordinance (UXOs). Their Area of Responsibility (AOR) includes the upper two thirds of Nova Scotia and all of Newfoundland and Labrador. As for discovered underwater UXOs, they split the country in half at the MB/ON border with their sister unit FDU(P) in Esquimalt, BC. In addition, members can be called upon to conduct Underwater Engineering duties such as emergency bearing changes or hull repairs on deployed frigates. They are on standby in case of a submarine incident (SUBSAR), other SARs such as overturned vessels or recovery operations such as the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Peggy’s Cove. Personnel are kept busy training up to 80 new Ship’s Team Divers/year plus other training programs. They frequently cooperate with Other Government Departments (OGDs) such as the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team and Parks Canada. Notably in 2015, FDU(A) in cooperation with Parks Canada conducted historic diving on HMS Erebus in the far North. It would seem rare to catch a diver lazing around back at the shop. Even in their down time, they are busy with constant gear and equipment maintenance or community activities. The unit participated in their 33rd Christmas Daddies 50K Run last December, raising close to $12,000 for the charity. This is a dedicated, hard-working, multi-disciplined unit with a myriad of talents and responsibilities.

FDU(A) on 50K run for charity – Photo courtesy of Christmas Daddies

One of the RUSI(NS) members remarked, “The biggest surprise to me was that for a small unit (about 111 pers covering half of Canada), they have significant warfighting, training and emergency responsibilities which they hone through a significant amount of world-wide training and operational deployments.”

FDU(A)’s Remotely Operated Vehicle

FDU(A)’s unique skills and expertise are in demand worldwide. Some of their recent exercises and operations include EX DYNAMIC MONARCH 14 (SUBSAR Training), RIMPAC (NATO Pacific Exercise), CUTLASS FURY 16 (Mine Countermeasure training), OP UNIFER (Training Ukrainian military on EOD disposal), OP OPEN SPIRIT (Clearing UXOs in the Baltic, link to explosion footage of a 2000 lb mine), EX TRADEWINDS (Interoperability training with the US in the Caribbean), OP RENDER SAFE (UXO clearing in the Solomon Islands), EX NORTHERN COAST (NATO training in Europe) and OP NUNALIVUT (Sovereignty exercise in Canada’s North). Anecdotally, on a recent OP NUNALIVUT, the dive team was called upon to do maintenance on CFS Alert’s fresh water pumps. The station was close to losing their water supply and without the assistance of the experienced ice water divers would have been reduced to their 30 day bottled water supply. Going back a few years to the Afghanistan war, clearance divers were in high demand for their EOD skills and were regularly deployed to deal with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Tragically, there were casualties. The unit makes regular real-world contributions in a wide variety of locales and environments.

FDU(A)’s Duocomm hyperbaric chamber

After the briefing session, the group toured through FDU(A)’s remarkable selection of gear and equipment. The unit uses a varied assortment of dive gear including rebreathers, surface supply dive systems, different kinds of hyperbaric chambers, surface EOD suits & equipment, several types of vessels for dive tending plus a tethered Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). The CO took time to describe one piece of gear the unit members find quite useful. One particular job of a clearance diver is to literally clear an area for hazards. Typically, this is done by the relatively slow method of line searching where the diver is guided in a search pattern through tugs on a line. During the lead-up to the Vancouver Olympics, the unit acquired the relatively inexpensive (@$10000) Shark Marine Technologies Navigator. It is a diver held Sonar Imaging and Navigation System which greatly reduces searching times. The CO stated that what used to take them a week’s worth of diving could be reduced to a day! The RCMP divers were quite interested in this piece of gear.

FDU(A)’s EOD robot for IED disposal

The future for the FDU(A) continues to look bright and demanding. They are looking forward to working with the RCAF’s new CH-148 Cyclone helicopter to develop diver operations and procedures from the aircraft. There is talk of placing 6-7 person teams on the RCN’s new Arctic Offshore Patrol (AOPs) vessels. The unit is pushing to purchase an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) such as an Iver 3 AUVAC or REMUS AUV which are in use with other navies. Last fall during CUTLASS FURY 16, members had a chance to see an USN REMUS in action during their joint Mine Counter Measure (MCM) training in Bedford Basin. Lastly, like all divers, they push forward researching and looking out for new technology and gear to develop and enhance their expertise and skill sets.

The people partaking of the tour were thoroughly impressed with their morning’s activities at FDU(A). The event was well planned and executed and gave the group first-hand information and a chance to see some interesting kit. Everyone present enjoyed the opportunity to interact with and learn about one of the RCN’s best kept secrets on the Atlantic coast.

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Sunrise during the approach to Torres del Paine, Chile

Torres del Paine

Of the five months I spent in Chile, I had a few days that will stick with me for the rest of my life. One of the more memorable was the day I spent in a Chilean National Park, Torres del Paine (Blue Towers).

(Link to Youtube video of Puerto Natales Creation Wall)

The vista from my Puerto Natales hotel room

The jumping off point for the park is a small tourist town of Puerto Natales. It is full of outfitter stores, guide and souvenir shops and an amazing pictorial wall depicting the Chilean version of creation. Since the town receives significant numbers of international visitors, there wasn’t an issue with communicating in English.

The southern edge of the park with the iconic Cuernos del Paine shrouded in cloud

I was fortunate to finally have a clear day for my expedition and it started with a spectacular sunrise as I drove north towards the park. As I continued my day, I lamented over the fact that I only had my Galaxy III phone to take pictures with. If I had the chance to go back, I would choose an extended stay and bring a proper camera in order to document the fantastic vistas and abundant wildlife.

Brilliant blue icebergs floating in Grey Lake

As you approach the park, you come upon a wide plain with the iconic Cuernos del Paine (Blue Horns) in the background. I headed towards Grey Lake and along the way just about drove off the gravel road I was on. I had seen the first of my gorgeous blue icebergs (hielo) of the day. There’s a glacier at the far end of the lake where large chunks of ice cleave off into the water. Apparently, the high amounts of oxygen create the brilliant blue. As the ice breaks into smaller pieces, it turns crystal clear. I saved a piece, melted it down and returned to Canada with some authentic glacier water for special occasions. When I dropped off some Chilean gifts to my Grandmother at her resthome in Creston, BC, we shared a drink. We also snuck in a drink of rhubarb liquor native to that region. Grandma appreciated it!

Guanaco silhouetted by the mountains of Torres del Paine

Further along in my explorations, I started coming across guanaco. I had been despairing that Chile had no land mammals as I had seen practically no wildlife in my travels to that point. Of course, I took several pictures of my first novel wild llama encounter! Then I saw more and more and more and finally a gigantic herd! They were not particularly afraid of me and I was able to approach the outer edge to within about 20′. They were more pissed at me than anything as a few of the animals were laying their ears back and hissing. The burnt brush was from an accidental tourist fire back in 2011.

(Link to Youtube video of my guanaco herd encounter)

Huge herd of guanaco along a hillside

After leaving the llamas behind, I continued with my explorations. I took a short hike to a famous cascada nearby. It doesn’t show in the pictures but the area is known for high winds and I was battling 40-50kt gusts for most of the day. Next, I began driving again and for the second time that day just about hit the ditch. I had spied a flash of pink out of the corner of my eye and after stopping saw a flock of flamingos! Chile actually has two varieties of the bird. Unfortunately, they were too far away for me to take a proper photo.

Salto Grande waterfall creating a familiar Arco Iris (rainbow)

As I drove down to a remote ranger station, I finally glimpsed high in the sky majestic condors soaring in the thermals. As the condor is the national bird of Chile, I was hoping to see one on my travels. Soon after, I came across another Chilean bird which caused me to slam on the brakes. Pecking at the ground, a few feet from the car was a substantial sized, flightless bird. I was afraid of it being startled, but it didn’t pay too much attention to me until I got out of the vehicle and started walking towards it. These rheas (ñandú) are not hunted and have a land speed of @40mph, so they aren’t afraid of a human on foot. The flock was another pleasant, surprising sight on top of all the others I saw that day. The last birds I came across were a small flock of Magellan geese (caiquén). The males are white and the females are brown and I was told they mate for life.

Nandú nonchalantly walking by the side of the road

I wasn’t finished with the wildlife extravaganza even when I left the park. I had stopped to take some pictures of local sheep (I noticed that their tails weren’t docked as is the practise elsewhere in the world) and I was fortunate to see a zorro (Patagonian Fox) skulking about. It might have been hunting the numerous liebre europea (European hare). I had come across two types of rabbits that day. The liebre were black and white, resembling long eared jack rabbits and the conejo looked like regular rabbits. The latter had a death wish as they kept darting in front of the car attempting to get squashed.

Magellan Geese – White male & brown females

I had a fantastic day exploring one of the wonders of the world! I highly suggest a trip to the region if you enjoy abundant wildlife, breath-taking vistas and untamed South American wilderness.

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The Airbus Defence & Space C295W – Photo courtesy of CAF

FWSAR: Analysis of the C295W Airbus Acquisition

This past December, the Liberal government announced a $2.4 billion contract to acquire sixteen Airbus C295W aircraft as the new Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) platform. The aircraft will replace the remaining six Buffalos of 442 Squadron in Comox, BC and the twelve C-130H Legacy (ie. Old) Hercules flown from Winnipeg, Trenton and Greenwood SAR squadrons. The four Twin Otters of 440 Squadron in Yellowknife will undergo a Life Extension in order to extend their operational life to 2025.

In a move reminiscent of the winning bidder lobbying battles back in 2005, Leonardo S.p.A. launched a lawsuit February 21, to overturn the contract. Depending on the success of the court proceedings, the odyssey of replacing the RCAF’s FWSAR fleet may be substantially delayed once again.

Background of FWSAR Missions

Search and Rescue Regions of Canada – Image courtesy of RCAF

Canada’s Search and Rescue (SAR) area of responsibility covers over 18 million square kilometers of land and sea. The mandate of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is to provide primary aeronautical SAR coverage with secondary maritime and ground coverage as coordinated through the regional Joint Rescue Coordination Centers (JRCCs).

Of the approximate 1000 annual aeronautical SAR taskings[1] JRCCs assign to the RCAF squadrons, FWSAR responds to 350 calls/year.[2] These numbers tie in with what I observed during my time with 442 Squadron in Comox, in 2008-09 where the squadron was responding to about 250 incidents (Buffalo & Cormorant) each year.

Three main principles for a successful aerial SAR are:

  • Speed to Last Known Position (LKP)
  • Availability of Time on Station
  • SAR Payload capacity

Once an aircraft has flown to the LKP, if they’re lucky, there will be obvious smoking wreckage or survivors waving at them. If not, the aircraft will conduct search patterns at lower and lower altitudes. The mountainous terrain of the Rockies presents the most challenging search locations due to the complex flying conditions plus the difficulty of spotting crash sites. I have seen pictures where the only evidence of the crash was a gash down the side of a tree. The Buffalo with attentive, trained spotters in the back is particularly suited for this type of flying and searching.

Captain (Ret’d) Ray Jacobson, a former FWSAR Air Navigator, gave me his operator’s point of view. He flew operationally in the SAR role in all three Search and Rescue Regions (SRRs) in Canada and has an extensive navigating background flying both the Hercules and the Buffalo. He has a unique insight into the pros and cons of those aircraft (and similar ones) as well as a very good feel for what it’s like flying and searching from Coast to Coast. He described to me how they use the Buffalo for ‘Valley Shoots’ to effectively terrain search in the mountains.

Sensor suites are fine in theory… but you cannot replace the human eye, therefore I’ll argue to my grave that you’ll always need a platform that can get low and slow enough to get a pair of eyes on the terrain. We had a procedure in the Buffalo called a Valley Shoot. When trying to contour a mountain you can’t get low enough over every nook and cranny… the valley shoot allowed the aircraft to descend rapidly and safely over a cut-line and enable the aircraft to ‘cover’ that section of the mountain at the prescribed search altitude. So you’d crest a ridge line and then drop full flap and drop the gear and then ‘shoot’ the valley. Great roller-coaster ride… as you descend rapidly to the base of the mountain. This was a very effective search technique though and it was valley-shoots that enabled spotters to get ‘eyes on’ crashed airplanes and resolve 3 of the last major air searches that I was involved with. I was on numerous searches and I’ve lost track of the number of times that aircraft were only spotted as ‘something didn’t look right’ and caught the spotter’s eye. Sensors, I’m afraid, are no match for the human eye and the associated interpretive abilities of the spotter. Only a human would notice that there were abnormalities in what he was seeing.

As he explained further, this was why Buffalos were kept in Comox instead of replacing them with Legacy Hercules.

Of course a Hercules would always be a preferable platform in Trenton and Halifax’s SRRs, but the Hercules is just too big to be operating safely in the Mountains. I have over 5,000 hrs on the Herc and flew SAR out of Namao (Edmonton) and Trenton. Flying even an H Model (the E’s were slower by 15kts) was a challenge and not very effective in mountainous (even hilly) terrain. As you have a stall speed of 110 kts to contend with, you were always dangerously close to it in the Herc as your search speed was 130 kts. Anything faster and the spotters only saw a blur! Often, though, you’d have to boost the speed to 160 kts to crest ridge lines, etc so our search effectiveness was really compromised. No problem if you had a cooperative target, but targets were rarely that. Also a Herc needs a minimum of 5,000’ of runway to land at… so that knocks out about 85% of the airfields we now go into in a Buffalo. The Herc was a good platform for most of the landmass east of the Canadian Rockies and it was perfect for the Far North and calls out to the middle of the Atlantic.

Canadian SAR is particularly difficult and dangerous. The RCAF aircrews and SAR Technicians have to continuously be on top of their game so that ‘Others May Live’. Unfortunately, their aircraft should have long ago been replaced and even with the C295W announcement, the first aircraft is not due until 2019.

The Tortuous Road of FWSAR Replacement

Below is a brief timeline of the 20+ year FWSAR replacement process:

  • 2002 – The Air Force had long ago decided back in the 90’s that it was time to replace the aging fleets with a new FWSAR platform. They made another push in 2002 for a FWSAR replacement.
  • 2003 – Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made the project a priority and allocated funding for 15 aircraft with first delivery date of 2006.[3]
  • 2004 – A FWSAR Project Office was stood up at DND and they began working on Statements of Requirements (SORs).[4]
  • 2005 – Airbus who was lobbying for their C295W to be chosen was upset that the Air Force seemed to be leaning heavily towards the Leonardo Spartan C27J.[5] The main point in favour of the C27J and against the C295W was the former’s cruise speed of 315 kts was above the Air Force mark of a required 273 kt cruising speed with the latter’s pegged at 244 kts.[6]
  • 2006 – SORs were developed but the FWSAR Project Office was dissolved in order to work on higher priority projects.[7]
  • 2008 – After the release of the Canada First Defence Strategy, the FWSAR Project Office was resurrected.
  • 2009 – The MND, Peter MacKay and the Harper government proposes to sole source contract the FWSAR favouring the C27J. The Aerospace industry was asked to submit their concerns with this plan.
  • Fall 2009 – DND, PublicWorks and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), and Industry Canada (IC) reviewed industry concerns. After the consultation process, the Government engaged the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct an independent review of the FWSAR SOR.
  • 2010 – The NRC released its Final Report on the FWSAR SORs. A main point which opened the door back up to competition was their conclusion that the process should switch to a capability SOR model vice a platform centric one.[8]
  • March 2012 – The federal government approved funding once again for the FWSAR.
  • January 2016 – Bidding closed on the project. Embraer from Brazil had their bid nullified in March, leaving only the Spartan and the C295W as contenders.[9]
  • June 2016 – Bid evaluation completed
  • December 1, 2016 – C295W announcement made by the Liberal government.
  • 2019 – Expected delivery of first aircraft.[10] This is an approximate date with the effect of Leonardo’s court challenge yet to be determined.
  • 2022 – Expected delivery of last aircraft

273 Knot Threshold

As early as 2005, Airbus was accusing the Air Force of writing their SORs too stringently. The perception was the Spartan had already been picked and the game was rigged in favour of a sole source aircraft. A main failing of the C295W is the cruise speed of 244 kts which was below a stated original SOR minimum of 273 kts. The 2010 NRC evaluation came to the following determination: It is not clear why the 273 knots cruise speed was chosen to be the target over the other calculated cruise speeds and the effect on crews that are on duty (30minute standby) is not addressed in the SOR or the operational research paper used to derive the cruise speed requirement. As the selected cruise speed of 273 knots does not allow the aircraft to meet with many of the stated requirements of the program, it is difficult to defend this speed as a mandatory minimum requirement. Cruise speed is a key discriminator in this program. But when you read further into the report, Furthermore, the stipulated minimum cruise speed of 273 knots would not satisfy the level of service assumption, nor maintain the current level of service that includes the CC130 Hercules aircraft which cruise at 300 knots. The idea was to choose a platform that would be an improvement on the existing FWSAR fleets.

In a Defence R&D Canada paper,[11] the authors attempted to determine the ideal cruising speed required of a FWSAR platform using historical SAR incidents from 1996-2004.

Locations of historical (1996-2004) SAR incidents responded to by FWSAR aircraft – Image courtesy of Defence R&D Canada

The researchers used a response performance model coined Basing, Endurance, and Speed Tool (BEST) to run a series of simulations to determine the outcomes of several proposal scenarios to determine if there was an ideal cruise speed/endurance ratio. They used a variety of proposals summarized in the following table:

Note: Proposal A is very close to the cruise speed and endurance of the C27J

Below are the results after their comparison runs which indicate Proposal A is the optimum combination of cruise speed and endurance:

Table 4: Comparison of example FWSAR solution performance.

Historical Incidents SRR Extremes

Proposal A
Proposal B
No Service
Proposal C
Proposal D
Proposal E

This 2013 Defence study clearly shows that speeds for the new FWSAR platform needed to be at a minimum of 315 knots, an improvement on the Legacy Hercules. In the paper’s conclusion, they state that the research tools developed at DRDC would be part of the first-ever, capability-based procurement of an aircraft fleet by the Government of Canada, according to the PMO.

The premise of speedy FWSAR aircraft had even gained traction within the Royal Military College Aeronautical Engineering Department. The 2015 class was asked to develop the CV-151 Oracle, a replacement aircraft for the Twin Otter.[12] From the original design specifications given to the engineering class, they were expected to produce an aircraft that cruised well above 300 kts.

Requirement CDR Values Target
Maximum cargo weight 4500 lbf 4500 lbf
STOL range (with maximum cargo) 668 nmi ≥ 850 nmi
VTOL range (with maximum cargo) 293 nmi ≥ 250 nmi
Ferry range 1489 nmi ≥ 1900 nmi
Maximum airspeed (SSL) 340 KTAS ≥ 300 KTAS
Maximum airspeed (FL100) 345 KTAS ≥ 360 KTAS
Cruise airspeed (FL250) 327 KTAS ≥ 300 KTAS
Stall airspeed (SSL) 98 KTAS clean

69 KTAS (dirty)

Maneuvering airspeed (SSL) 105 KTAS ≤ 100 KTAS
Rate of climb (SSL) 4769 ft/min ≥ 4000 ft/min
Absolute ceiling 31249 ft ≥ 28000 ft
Operational ceiling 29500 ft ≥ 28000 ft

So how did the C295W with its low cruise speed of 244 kts make it through the process? The research and military thinking stipulated an aircraft faster than 300 kts was the sought ideal.

SAR navigator Capt Jacobson is also disturbed by the C295J’s slower speed. Since Canada has elected a single platform solution for FWSAR then it was imperative that the platform selected be able to launch from southern Canada and be able to reach the Far North in no more than 12hrs. The Hercules was just able to do that… the Herc’s speed is 315Kts. So you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to understand that any claims that the CASA 295 could fulfill that requirement were obviously ‘cooked’. The Buffalo’s speed of 220Kts was always a handicap in this SRR… fortunately people operating in the Yukon knew that we were a minimum of 4 to 5 hrs away and they were prepared for it. Of concern in Trenton’s and Halifax’s regions is all the commercial airliner’s transiting our Far North and in addition for Halifax is all the oceanic traffic, both commercial air and marine. I flew the Buffalo out of Summerside years ago and the speed was very much a handicap in servicing that SRR. The CASA’s speed simply does not cut it… this country and its areas of responsibility are simply too vast. There is a solution to this ‘lack of speed’, (ergo ‘longer response time), but it’s an expensive one. The solution would be to base additional aircraft in the Far North (Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Churchill, Iqaluit, etc)… but imagine the extra cost!

RCAF Aircrew, military thinking and DRDC research confirmed the original Air Force stipulation that an aircraft with a cruising speed over 300 kts was required but this requirement was ignored.

FWSAR Ergonomics

Another major drawback of the C295W is the relatively low cabin height for the SAR Techs. The diagram below illustrates the height differences between the Spartan and the Airbus products:


The 2010 NRC SOR document concluded the inclusion of minimum cabin height and width requirements in the SOR was appropriate. The stated requirement for a minimum cabin height of 83 inches in height (210.8 cm) is not supported. Given the importance of minimum cabin dimensions in discriminating between candidate aircraft, it is important that the definition of minimum requirements be based on a sound and comprehensive analysis of accommodation requirements. It is recommended that DND conduct an analysis of the work envelope of SAR Technicians across a complete range of tasks and roles. The NRC spoke with SAR Techs who were happy with the Buffalo’s height range of 78-82”. But the C295J only has a height of 75”.

Capt Jacobson also agrees that the SAR Techs are going to be inconvenienced. The height/diameter of the fuselage of the CASA is way too short!! Have you ever been in the back of the Buffalo when 3 SARTECHs are trying to maneuver around one another once they have all their jump kit on? Each guy is carrying 265 lbs of extra kit and they have to be able to step around one another when they’re preparing to jump. There’s barely enough room in the Buffalo and its ceiling is a good 8 to 9’. The CASA only has about 6’, therefore any SARTECH trying to work back there will be forced to be permanently bent at the waist… this will undoubtedly lead to long-term back ailments for anyone who’s 5’10” and taller. Most of the SARTECHs are near the 6’ mark, so I really feel for them. To me, this small fuselage should’ve ruled out this aircraft as a contender, period.

SAR Techs have enough physical concerns during their career. They don’t need to be needlessly crammed into a small area for hours at a time or worrying about space issues before jumping.

C295W Power Concerns

One other important issue with the Airbus C295 that raises concerns with former SAR Buffalo pilot Scott Goebel is the aircraft’s power plant. The plane uses two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW 127G turboprop engines with a stated Engine Power (each) of 1972 kW / 2645 SHP. He believes that the aircraft may be under-powered for safe and effective flight in mountainous terrain. Moreover, he worries that the seemingly under-powered aircraft will not allow crews to use published air routes during instrument meteorological conditions that require it to maintain high minimum obstruction clearance altitudes, common for the Victoria region, in the event of the loss of an engine. In these situations crews must plan alternate routes that often lead to extended periods of time before reaching an area to deliver necessary aid.

For comparison, the C27J’s Maximum Engine Power is 4637 SHP per engine and the Buffalo uses a General Electric CT64-820-4 turboprop, generating 3,133 hp (2,336 kW) per engine.

Overall, between the slow speed, ergonomics and power plants, there appears to be significant reasons against purchasing the C295W. Capt Jacobson summed up his opinion of the purchase as, in a nutshell, the Government bought a fancy SUV when they really needed a Mack Truck!

Bad Timing for the Spartan C27J

Unfortunately when the FWSAR project office closed in 2006 for higher purchase priorities, the Air Force missed their chance for a replacement aircraft. Subsequently, key events conspired against the timely awarding of the contract.

The Air Force had been on a roll, acquiring new aircraft quickly due to the efforts of the CDS, General Rick Hillier to push through acquisitions in a timely manner. There was an anecdote that Hillier flew in a Dutch Chinook in Afghanistan where he could still see the old Canadian Air Force sticker under the new paint. This galled him to shove through a new Chinook procurement bid in 2006. He wanted a heavy lift capability and C17 Globemasters were ordered February 2007 and the first one flew for Canada later that year. New C130J Hercules were ordered December 2007 and 17 Hercs were delivered between 2010 and 2012. In 2009, the government and Air Force were flying high and were all set to sole source order the obvious choice for the new FWSAR. What happened?

Here’s a list of events that conspired to delay the new FWSAR for at least another 10 years:

  • Gen Rick Hillier retired as CDS July 1, 2008. Hillier was a rare CDS and instrumental at pushing programs and projects through.
  • The FWSAR Project Office had been stood down in 2006 and wasn’t reopened until mid-2008. Valuable time to work on the replacement aircraft was lost.
  • Airbus had been putting up a stink since 2005 about the favouring of the C27J over their product.
  • There was waning public support for the war in Afghanistan. The Captain Semrau incident, Afghan detainee issues and the cost of the war in blood and gold was wearing on the public’s acceptance of more high priced Defence department acquisitions.
  • The Great Global Recession! Starting in mid-2008 with the nadir occurring in spring 2009, the recession was probably the principal reason for pushing back another expensive contract for the Air Force. Sending the SORs to Industry Canada and the NRC gave the Conservative government at the time a way to stall and push off a costly purchase. Politically, they could show that they were not going to play favourites and clean up the procurement process at the same time.
  • A new Liberal government was elected in 2015. Their natural inclination would be to thoroughly dissect and discard any Conservative programs in favour of their own ideology.

The time to strike had passed. Policy changes, switching of government and unforeseen circumstances caused a FWSAR decision to be kicked down the road.


So what was the reasoning for Liberals picking the Airbus C295W when DRDC research, the RCAF and members of the SAR community clearly do not see it as an adequate platform? Perhaps it was partly politics and the optics of picking an aircraft that the opposition party was planning on purchasing. Chrétien refused to later purchase the EH-101 and the Sea Kings have still not been replaced after the contract cancellation in 1993. The government is going to great lengths to sole source Super Hornets in order to distance themselves from the Conservative’s F-35 choice.

Cost is probably also an issue as both the Spartan and Hercules C130J come with significantly higher price tags.[13] Considering each year of delay was estimated to cost an extra $40M[14] due to operating older aircraft, the 10 year hiatus will cost $400M on its own. Even the Canadian bidder, Viking Air Ltd could have built their proposed Super Buffalo and might have had it in the air by now. It seems important to build ships for the Navy in Canada, so how about considering that Made in Canada approach for the Air Force?

Regrettably, the RCAF and the SAR aircrews seem to be destined to end up saddled with a substandard aircraft. This has happened before when fighter pilots were asked to operate the CF-104 Starfighter (aka ‘The Widowmaker’ or ‘The Lawndart’), a high altitude interceptor, as a ground attack aircraft resulting in 110 crashes and 37 pilot fatalities. Another example of a poor purchase was the relatively useless CF-5 Freedom Fighter a product of Canadair, later the core company of Bombardier Aerospace. Pratt and Whitney, headquartered in Quebec, will receive more engine orders from this Airbus purchase.

It is unfortunate when politics and bureaucratic policy vice operator preference and experience seem to play such a crucial role when selecting the correct equipment for the job. SAR crews gain their knowledge through thousands of flight hours on thousands of missions in typically the worst of conditions and circumstances. Occasionally, this hard won know-how is paid with the ultimate sacrifice as with the recent death of SAR Technician, MCpl Alfred Barr. Maybe the bean counters and politicians should pay more attention to the recommendations of the people risking their lives.

[1] RCAF: Search and Rescue, September 15, 2015 –

[2] Public Services and Procurement Canada: Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement Project, January 19, 2017 –

[3] Espritdecorps Canadian Military Magazine: FWSAR Replacement Winner Announced, January 26, 2017 –

[4] National Defence: Audit of the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Project, May 2009, page iii/vi –

[5] Espritdecorps Canadian Military Magazine: FWSAR Replacement Winner Announced, January 26, 2017 –

[6] National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Fixed-wing search and rescue procurement project, February 22, 2017 –

[7] National Defence: Audit of the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Project, May 2009, page iii/vi –

[8] NRC: Review of the Statement of Operational Requirement for the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft – FINAL Report, March 12, 2010 –

[9] Espritdecorps Canadian Military Magazine: FWSAR Replacement Winner Announced –

[10] Public Services and Procurement Canada: Procurement timeline: Fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, December 8, 2016 –

[11] Defence R&D Canada: Development of a Capability-Based Bidder Evaluation Tool for the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Replacement Project, October 2013 –

[12] Royal Military College: CV-151 Oracle Preliminary Design Report, April 1, 2015 –

[13] Roughly, each Spartan or C130J aircraft would cost $15M USD more compared to one C295W –

[14]National Defence: Audit of the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Project, page 5/13 –

Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.

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Fish Market in Valdivia, Chile

Feeding our Children Eating Disorders

I was in Sobey’s the other day and noticed a new section in the meat department called Certified Humane. A gentleman was on his cell phone speaking to his wife about what meat to buy and I overheard him describing the humane beef. I had to say something and asked if he thought the cows were petted once a day. The whole thing is just another food fad scam to fleece the consumer.

I have spent a good portion of my life around the production of food. Growing up on the farm, about the only food we didn’t produce on our own was flour, sugar, salt and pepper. Grandpa used to keep bees for a sugar substitute and my aunt did grind our wheat for her bread. We raised cattle, pigs, chickens and supplemented with fish and wild game for protein. In the spring, we netted suckers running in the ditches to can. We picked wild and tame berries and crabapples in the summer and fall. We had about an acre of land for the garden, half in potatoes with the rest being a wide variety of vegetables. Mom baked about 40 loaves of bread every other week. We milked a pair of cows for milk, butter and ice cream. Mom still has two fridges, an overstuffed large freezer and four rooms in the house dedicated to storing food. Guess what, living like that is a ton of work and needs space. I find it hilarious when townies think they can sustain themselves on a small urban garden and maybe a backyard chicken or two.

Later in life, I kept sheep and worked on dairy farms. I dove on BC salmon fish farms as a ‘mort’ diver. I am an avid outdoorsman and graze as I hike in the forest or along the shoreline. I have made chips out of rock lichen and with some certainty can show you what wild mushrooms are good to eat. I have tried just about every delicacy from the ocean including sea moss, eel, sea cucumbers, abalone, urchin, geoducks, puffins, seal, shark and whale to name a few. Unlike the vast majority of North Americans, I actually know what food and beverages are supposed to taste like. I enjoy food and drink.

A serving of Chilean Abalone in Puerto Montt

What has got me so steamed like a blue mussel, is the preponderance of idiocy around food and how it is affecting young girls and boys. The food myths around antibiotics, hormones, gluten, GMOs, sugar, animal treatment, organic, cleansing, etc. are creating a generation of children with skewed values over food. I will not go into the absolute absurdity surrounding the particular hysteria over whatever ingredient is the food bogeyman of the moment. I suggest you take some time to read articles from the list of people and organizations below who are trying to enlighten people with the truth about your food vice the slick marketing campaigns from multi-national companies and activist organizations.

It may be just my anecdotal observations that my girlfriend’s daughter is around so many other girls her age with eating disorders. But I have a theory that I am witnessing the results of a more general trend of what ill-informed parents are doing to their kids. Myrtle (not her real name) decided to become a vegetarian somewhere around the age of 8. Polling shows that most vegans/vegetarians are women and their biggest concern is animal welfare. Have you heard of the phrase, ‘I don’t eat anything with a face’? Women mentally picture the animal in pain either while it is being raised or slaughtered and can’t get over that image in order to eat a steak. The anthropomorphism of animals has been hammered home for decades by activist groups, celebrities, and animal rights organizations. They scream and protest and throw blood on fur coats because they believe their Disney cartoon animals are analogues of real animals on farms and in the wild. They don’t have to be truthful, they just plaster the internet with staged videos of alleged animal cruelty with the intent of furthering their cause. A recent example of this was the howls of rage over the supposed mistreatment of a dog on the set of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’. These self serving organizations have run decades old campaigns to hoodwinked the parents on believing their ideologies and in turn have pushed their misguided beliefs down on their children.

Even using animals for their milk, eggs or honey equates to slavery or a cruel Orwellian factory setting. Raw milk fads are gaining popularity because those Holsteins are perceived as being treated to a kinder and gentler existence. People are willing to give their kids E. coli poisoning rather than drinking regular pasteurized milk. Vegans say bees and chickens being exploited if you take their eggs or honey. To be fair, when it came to chickens, my grandparents refused to buy eggs from the local Hutterites as they kept multiple hens in a single cage. Chickens peck the crap out of each other and will kill the weakest especially in a closed environment. This is why many farmers raising chickens for gathering eggs generally use a one bird/one cage method. But if you want your eggs to be affordable and available, they can’t all be free-range. Here’s a description of the pros and cons of different methods of raising chickens for their eggs: Egg Production Methods

What is really disturbing to me is how food misinformation has moved on to vegetables. What could possibly be wrong with baby carrots and broccoli? Myrtle’s father has a long list of forbidden foods and practices which include eating trans fats, white bread, processed sugar, water straight from the tap and the use of Chapstick. But coconut oil with its cholesterol issues is fine. One of Myrtle’s friends has never had anything made with processed sugar. This particular girl brings over all her own food and even water when visiting. Some of the kids for religious reasons won’t eat meat especially beef. Some of her friends are lactose intolerant. If Myrtle has a birthday party, each child has to have their own separate meal because their diets are so screwed up.

I won’t even go into how peanut butter has been outlawed in schools. Non-GMO Verified Wowbutter made from soybeans is allowed though.

I am not saying eat a Big Mac and a bag of chips every day. What I am saying is get off these food fad bandwagons and eat in guilt-free moderation. Eat a wide variety of foods and talk to the producer about where your food comes from. Large corporations like Sobey’s or A&W are needlessly spreading food fears with their high-priced marketing campaigns. Environmentalists and Luddite organizations like PETA are spreading lies about farming and hunting methods. I would suggest that farmer and hunter driven organizations like Rod & Gun clubs and Ducks Unlimited have done more for the environment and wildlife than Hollywood celebrities touting animal rights drivel.

I had a girlfriend who is celiac and legitimately had to refrain from eating or drinking gluten containing foods and beverages. Once you start looking for gluten outside of the obvious sources of bread and beer, you start to notice how much wheat is in processed foods. She was forced to make most of her family meals from scratch and to stay away from processed food in a box. But food in a box is going to have extra fillers and empty calories whether it says ‘Gluten Free’ or not. The point is to try and stay away from the boxed food in the first place.

Harvesting wheat – Bar 7 Farms, Kelwood, Manitoba

One last personal anecdote: I totally burst the bubble of an owner of a Burger King over his passion for Angus beef when I explained to him that it was just a marketing ploy. I guaranteed to him that he wouldn’t be able to taste the difference between an Angus (Red or Black), Charolais, Hereford, Simmental, or Limousin. Yes, you can tell the difference between an animal that was only grass fed. Yes, if the meat has been aged for longer, it will be tastier. In general, no beef animal tastes better than the other if raised under similar conditions. Angus was just a more manly sounding name to some marketing executive and the whole industry has swung around to it. 

A Charolais/Simmental cross from Bar 7 Farms, Kelwood, Manitoba

Enjoy food and drink, all food and drink. Try to stay away from too much processed, instant meals but drop the guilt over the occasional plate of French fries or a steak. Stop getting hooked into the latest food fad shoved on to you from the internet or super market. That food guilt is screwing up your children and will give them lifelong eating disorders over something as basic as food and water.

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.