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Captain's log: Safety first

Fire drills, survival suit fittings and helicopter briefings greet new guests to the Laurier

  • Aug 27, 2014
  • 433 words
  • 2 minutes
Pilot Andrew Stirling gives a briefing on helicopter operations aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier Expand Image

August 28, 2014, 17:00 Mountain Standard Time
The weather today was overcast, with grey skies, 20 knot winds, and based on the forecasts we expect this to continue into tomorrow as well. While the winds made it awkward for boat work, they should help to speed up the ice breakup in Victoria Strait (our ideal target search area). Operations today focused on navigational aids works in Cambridge Bay, which is as close to a port as you get in this area of the Arctic. We will head toward Requisite Channel over night to get close to our search area tomorrow.

Safety was the theme on board today for our new guests, complete with a fire drill, survival suit fittings and a comprehensive helicopter briefing. Safety at sea is more than simply an exercise, and we take it very seriously. While we do many things, the most important is search and rescue. In addition to the vessels previously mentioned onboard, we also carry with us two rigid-hull inflatable rescue boats, a nurse and four crewmen who are also well-trained medics, also known as rescue specialists.

A highlight for many of our guests was the comprehensive briefing given by our pilot Andrew Stirling. Technically both he and helicopter engineer Stewart Rurka are Transport Canada employees, but we see them as part of our close-knit Coast Guard family. With over 30 years of experience as a helicopter pilot, Stirling understands helicopters and passengers. His detailed briefings cover all aspects of safe helicopter operations, in-flight equipment and protocols for emergency scenarios. And besides being a talented pilot, he’s one of the funniest people aboard.

The Coast Guard helicopter on the Laurier (call number CG362) is a light twin MBB 105 constructed in 1985 and modified in 1987 in Fort Erie Ontario for Coast Guard operations. Rated to wind speeds of 45 knots for safe flight, the helicopter with its heavy-duty landing gear is ideally suited for ship-based operations. It’s also well looked after, as Rurka conducts all routine inspections and both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance in the helicopter’s retractable hangar. The aircraft is an essential tool for our navigation work and is regularly transferring crews and supplies to remote locations. In fact, we are preparing to sling a 30-foot tower in the next few days. But the helicopter also supports a number of other ship-based operations, including ice reconnaissance, search and rescue and is overall a key workhorse for us. Simply put, it’s an essential tool in the Arctic, and all managed by a flight crew of two.


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