RCAF, Coast Guard and CASARA to conduct search and rescue exercise near St. Thomas, Ont.

A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules aircraft (Source: Elgin County OPP)

If you’re in Elgin County this week, the skies and lake may be busier than usual.

According to Elgin County OPP, a search and rescue operation is scheduled to occur between May 9 and May 13 near St. Thomas and Lake Erie.

The exercise will involved a CC-130H Hercules aircraft and a CH-146 Griffon helicopter from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron. Also taking part are vessels from the Canadian Coast Guard and a civilian aircraft from the Civil Search and Rescue Association (CASARA).

The training exercise will involve search and rescue technicians being deployed via hoist using different techniques to assisting vessels. Smoke markers will be used to indicate wind direction and other factors in order to determine appropriate placement of live-saving equipment and to locate people in the water.

OPP say that aircraft participating in the exercise and rescue activities will need to fly lower than usual to locate and provide assistance. These aircraft may travel at lower speeds and circle overhead more than once, and because some RCAF aircraft are bigger than traditional passenger planes, it may appear as if they’re flying lower than they actually are.

424 Squadron is based at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont. The 424 Squadron crews one aircraft of each type on standby in order to respond to marine distress calls that are tasked by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

The press release adds that these types of search and rescue exercises are crucial in helping teams prepare to respond to distress calls, and help maintain the skillset of aircrews so they can safely execute missions alongside search and rescue partners.

OPP say that the RCAF aircrew will adhere to strict rules and regulations to ensure safety, and all efforts will the made to minimize disruption to the community.