Local CASARA members were given a rare opportunity to receive their military spotter certification training with the help of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Sparwood on May 26. Read the full story on Page A2. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

WATCH: Historic landing in Sparwood

Saturday was historic for the town of Sparwood, as it saw the first-ever military landing at the Sparwood Elk Valley Airport.

Four-four-two Transport and Rescue Squadron’s bright yellow Royal Canadian Air Force Search and Rescue aircraft, the CC-115 Buffalo, flew in from Comox, British Columbia, on May 26, coming in to land at the Sparwood Airport. There, it was met by local Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) members. The military then flew these nine CASRA members around the Elk Valley, during which time they received their military spotter certification.

Brent Bidston runs the local CASARA in Sparwood, which was initially set up to provide spotters for the military. He established it himself seven years ago, as there was no air search and rescue division at the time.

Today, their main role is to support Ground Search and Rescue as well as the police in searches, but they still maintain the ability to provide spotters for the miltary as well. With this new spotter certification, Sparwood CASARA can now board military aircraft and help with search and rescue.

The local CASARA group covers north of Elkford, all the way up to the Elk Lakes, south to Montana and across the Flathead. In the past, CASARA has been called out on rescue missions in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Bidston said Saturday’s visit was historic.

“This is the first time we’ve seen the air force come to us, and the first time that I’ve managed to get my members certified on military aircraft,” said Bidston.

“It was fairly historic,” he continued. “As far as I’m aware it’s the first time it’s ever happened in the Sparwood Elk Valley Airport.”

Bidston says it was amazing to finally get inside the Buffalo, which has had a long and glorious history in search and rescue. At 24 metres long, the Buffalo is small enough to service the rough and mountainous terrain on Canada’s West Coast, and was made to take off and land on even the most rugged terrain and in areas as short as a soccer field.

In 2020 it will be replaced by the C-295W from Airbus. According to the Royal Canadian Air Force, the new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft will carry out critical, life-saving search and rescue missions across Canada’s vast and challenging territory, including the Arctic.


CASARA members receive their military spotter certification training. Photo courtesy of Brent Bidston

Buffalo touches down. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Just Posted

Fernie man builds 10-foot sign thanking fire responders

Ken Rawson built his “thank u” sign on Saturday as helicopters responded to fires in the Elk Valley

SAR volunteers thanked after series of emergencies

Incidents ranged from the search for a missing hiker to delivering evacuation alerts in nearby towns

Update: guard built at Coal Creek Road fire near Fernie

Seventeen firefighters and one helicopter working to contain Coal Creek FSR fire, east of Fernie

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

McDermid Creek fire registered at 70ha

A wildfire burning approximately 6 kilometres west of the Morrissey area is… Continue reading

At least 14 illegal fires set in Fraser Valley this month

Conservation officers are fed up with people not listening to the province-wide fire ban

Cranbrook cyclist nabs another World Cup gold

Local athlete takes the top spot on the podium after World Cup road race in Quebec

B.C. woman promoting ‘orange glow’ campaign to support firefighters

A Penticton woman is hoping an orange ribbon campaign will catch on throughout B.C.

Air Canada-led consortium signs deal to buy Aeroplan program

The deal would acquire the Aeroplan loyalty program from Aimia Inc

Microsoft uncovers more Russian attacks ahead of midterms

Evidence found of Russian hacking attempts targeting U.S. political groups

Animal crackers break free from their cages

PETA pressures Mondelez International to show animals roaming in their natural habitats

U.S. man admits slaying wife, blames her for daughters’ deaths

A 33-year-old Denver man is facing three first-degree murder charges

Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha as pilgrims conduct hajj rites

More than 2 million pilgrims carry out the final rites of the hajj in Saudi Arabia

Most Read