Thursday, September 22, 2011

Con Air

This past July I was urged by officials connected with 9 Wing Gander to tour the base, to witness first-hand the operation of the military’s Search and Rescue Cormorant helicopters.

I have been critical of the Cormorants in the past, specifically in terms of emergency response times – 30 minutes wheels up during business hours, Monday to Friday; 2 hours wheels up during evenings and weekends.

Those response times have led to the deaths of Newfoundland and Labrador mariners.

Case in point, the Melina and Keith II.

The request for a tour was turned down by Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s office.

“In short, conducting such tours would undoubtedly detract from the high operational tempo of this important facility and aircraft, and thus limit the normal functioning of both facility and aircraft and that of its personnel,” read the email from Merv Frame, senior special assistant in MacKay’s office.

Then, news broke Wednesday evening that MacKay had reportedly used a Cormorant in July 2010 to pick him up from a private fishing lodge on the Gander River.

So, a tour would interfere with the base’s “operational tempo,” but using a Cormorant as a taxi, as a limo, wouldn’t?

What a joke.

MacKay appears guilty of a gross misuse of Search and Rescue resources.

As I wrote Wednesday morning in a press release: “Newfoundland and Labrador mariners expect the Search and Rescue helicopters to be there when they need them – not tied up shuttling federal cabinet ministers around on fishing trips.”

There’s a little more to this story.

I heard rumours this past July that MacKay had called in a Cormorant for personal use on the Gander River.

The rumours came directly from personnel who work on the Gander base – and they were pissed.

I filed an official ATIP request for details, but I’m still waiting for a response.

No comments: