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Military Chopper Used for Labrador Fishing Trip

griffon.jpg The military is defending the use of a Griffon helicopter for a fishing trip to No Name Lake in Labrador on June 8. (Facebook ) The Department of National Defence is again under fire for using a military helicopter for a fishing trip in Labrador. This time it wasn’t the defence minister getting a lift, however; it was members of the search and rescue squadron. A photo posted on Facebook shows a yellow search and rescue helicopter parked on the shore with five people in the water. They appear to be fishing. The photo has prompted an angry response from many in Labrador, where the failure to find 14-year-old Burton Winters before he died on the ice is still fresh in many people’s minds. People are questioning why soldiers used a military helicopter for a fishing trip. DND is under fire for using a military helicopter to take squadron members on a fishing trip in Labrador. In a written statement, the Department of National Defence told CBC News the helicopter was from 444 Squadron at CFB 5 Wing Goose Bay. Capt. Dave Bowen said the June 8 trip to No Name Lake was a familiarization/readiness flight on a CH-146 Griffon helicopter.

Peter Cowan Joins us live in our studio to give us all the details.

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“This trip was approved by the commanding officer of 444 Combat Support Squadron as an extraordinary measure to recognize the effort of the ground crews in completing essential maintenance and detailed inspection of one of the aircraft returning to Goose Bay from a deployment in Jamaica,” Bowen wrote in an e-mail to CBC News. That mission to Jamaica ended last fall. The military says the squadron is only required to be ready for missions within 12 hours, so the trip didn’t impact their response time. The Griffon crew kept in contact with 5 Wing, and the chopper was available to “respond and re-task” if necessary. There was also another search-and-rescue-configured helicopter available at Goose Bay if required, Bowen notes.

Learning fishing skills “Because 444 Combat Support Squadron is not a primary search and rescue squadron, their mandated standby posture was not impacted by activity at No Name Lake,” Bowen wrote. He also points out that learning fishing skills is part of the squadron’s survival training. The use of a military helicopter for a fishing trip comes in the wake of a recent controversy involving Defence Minister Peter MacKay. In 2010, a Cormorant search and rescue helicopter picked up MacKay at a fishing resort in central Newfoundland and dropped him at the Gander airport. MacKay defended the pickup by stressing that he left a vacation to go to work. At the time, military officials expressed concern in internal e-mails about the impact of social media in creating bad press in such instances. Last month’s fishing trip involving a military helicopter in Labrador began generating attention after photos were posted on Facebook

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