Thursday, 31 October 2013


The Honourable Robert Nicholson, Minister of National Defence
National Defence Headquarters
Major-General George R. Pearkes Building
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K2

 Dear Bob,

Thank you for your October 21st reply to my letter of September 7th. I was recommending that you move immediately to make an interim buy of Dash-8’s to relieve the situation, both operationally and politically, that you face with the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement (FWSAR) project. I appreciate that by DND standards this is a lighting fast response and my compliments to your staff, or whoever it was who actually answered my note.

I apologize Bob if this comes across as sarcasm; I really am impressed that someone did get back to me in less then a geological time frame. It is more then can be said for your opposite numbers in the other parties. Mind you, I don’t suppose that they have the staff resources you do and they probably worry that anything written over their names may come back to haunt them. So, considering what ‘you’ wrote, kudos for nerve too.

'You’ pointed out in your reply that ,” The FWSAR project is moving forward and, as I am sure you are aware, a draft version of the request for proposals was released on 30 August 2013. After reviewing comments from potential contenders for the FWSAR project, a final request for proposals will be released in early 2014. Thus, Canada's legacy SAR fleets will be replaced in the near future and Canada's excellent SAR service will continue for years to come.”

Good Lord Bob, talk about going out on a limb, “replaced in the near future”! This is exactly the kind of thing you can not have going out over your name. Some, less knowing, individuals might take “near future” to imply “sometime in this decade”, and you and I both know what a stretch that is. 

I did try to explain the whole rear ramp business, “When considering the purchase of Dash-8s' it is necessary to deal with the whole rear aircraft ramp issue. Although widely used for search and rescue or maritime patrol in other countries the Dash-8 has not been considered for the purpose in Canada because it lacks a rear opening cargo door.

 When the procurement program first ran into trouble the DND commissioned a report on the issue written by the National Research Council. In that report the NRC mandated a rear opening cargo door. They believed that it was a safety issue for the rescue techs who had to parachute into crash sites. As well, it was considered to be easier to maneuver stretchers into an aircraft with a large rear opening door.

 In truth, the NRC report was based on existing aircraft with no special modifications for side exits by parachutists. No attempt was ever made to examine the air operable doors provided by Field Aviation, and other aircraft modification specialist companies, to most operators of Dash-8 search and rescue aircraft.”

I honestly think someone must have missed that last paragraph because ‘you’ replied “I agree with the recommendation for a rear ramp. The airflow outside the side door of a flying aircraft is quite different for a parachutist compared to that off a rear ramp. It is for this reason that the safety of the brave SAR technicians, who risk their own lives in very hazardous conditions, should not be compromised.”

Now we have multiple problems. First, it might be interpreted by some less then charitable (cough, NDP, cough, cough) individuals that you are suggesting that foreigners are making a mistake by buying Canadian products. If you are saying that all those other countries are making a mistake buying them, along with their Canadian manufactured and installed modifications, for Search and Rescue, well you can see how it looks Bob.

Plus there is this whole business of our “brave SAR technicians”. I’m not sure where that came from, who was saying they aren’t brave, but for the sake of argument, are you saying that if they weren’t brave they wouldn’t be deserving of a safe work environment? You can see how this might play out when twisted by evil doers. And by evil doers, of course we mean Liberals.

I did appreciate ‘your’ final thought;” I trust that this information is helpful, and thank you for your interest in the search and rescue capability for the Canadian Armed Forces.” but I think you mistake my interest. As focused as I am sure we all are on “the search and rescue capability for the Canadian Armed Forces” it would be a mistake not to recognize that my main concern, like that of many Canadians, is on the success of your department as a whole.

I am sure that some days it must seem like an uphill battle, but don’t give up the good fight Bob. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the “suits’ around you have there own agendas and they may not always be yours. And for heavens sakes, watch out for what they’re putting out in your name, this stuff can really come back to haunt you.

Have a happy, and safe, Halloween and remember, we’re all pulling for you.

J.G. Murray