Nfld. & Labrador

Military search and rescue in peril: report

A Canadian Forces report says its search and rescue services are threatened because it can't recruit and retain staff.

Private sector recruiting away flight engineers

A Canadian Forces report says its search and rescue services are threatened because it can't recruit and retain staff.

The report about a shortage of flight engineers obtained by CBC News describes the situation as dangerous and predicts that flight engineers will drop to a critical level across the country in less than a year.

Flight engineers are integral to a rescue operation — one of their jobs is to lower hoists from a hovering chopper to people in the ocean or aboard a disabled vessel.

The study says vigorous recruiting by private companies, such as CHC Helicopter and Cougar Helicopter Ltd. in Newfoundland and Labrador, is luring search and rescue personnel away from the military.

It said the sharp increase of flight engineers to the private sector has left dangerously low levels of personnel and it says the attrition threatens their ability to operate.   

The report predicts that in the near future the military's central Newfoundland search and rescue operation will not be able to perform search and rescue without assistance from other bases.

The report recommends better recruiting, better training, and better retention.

"Because we don't want to just fix it for this year, we want to fix it for the long term," said National Defence Col. Michel Lalumière.

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