The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has arrived in Abbotsford.
A massive RCAF CC-177 Globemaster transporter plane delivered three CH-146 Griffon helicopters to Abbotsford International Airport to help shore up the fight against the flood at 1:30 p.m., Nov. 20.
On board were 25 RCAF personnel, not counting the CC-177 crew, ready to deploy to support local mitigation efforts. Their numbers include air crews, logistics specialists, technications, and pilots. More RCAF personnel are flying in by commercial air.
Maj. Ian Robert, the acting task force commander of the 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron from Quebec City, said he feels there’s a sense of urgency.
“We train every day, every night throughout the year to be ready,” he said. “We want to help support the isolated populations.”
The task force assesses the situation on the ground before the RCAF arrives so they can tailor to their requirements. Robert and other task force officers arrived yesterday ahead of the RCAF.
The CH-146 is a tactical-transport helicopter used for troops and material, and can be used for search and rescue, reconnaissance, and evacuations.
It’s equipped with satellite navigation, radar, and can be fitted with a host of different equipment, including a searchlight and a hoist to extract people and cargo from nearly any terrain type. The helicopters can carry up to 5,400 kilograms.
The arriving men and materials will help relieve the already strained provincial resources, said Cpt. Marcil, an operations officer with the task force. He said the province put in the request on Wednesday.
“We’re adding more options, we’re adding a military eye to the operation that the province is running,” Marcil said, adding they can help transport equipment, passengers, and food to isolated areas.
The unit has spent the last few days delivering food to First Nations cut off from the landslides, Marcil said.
When the CC-177 landed, the RCAF unit immediately began moving equipment and gear off, and started reassembling the helicopter blades and rotors and unloading the helicopters.
Robert said they should be operational within three hours, and air crews would be briefed shortly afterwards.
Cpt. Jocelyn Bourque has been a pilot for seven years, and has been flying Griffons for three, but it’s his first time participating in an operation.
“Very excited and happy to be here,” Bourque said. “Just hoping we can help.”
He wasn’t sure where he was staying tonight, but said the unit was initially told to pack tents. They will be here anywhere from two weeks to 45 days before rotating out.