Glen Thompson, left, and Doug Betts are members of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, Debert zone. The group was formed in the late 1980s and is still active, although more volunteers are always being sought. Monique Chiasson – Truro Daily News
DEBERT – Doug Betts can trace his love of aviation back to his teen years.
“I was building model airplanes when I was 12 or 14,” said Betts, a Hilden resident who is a charter member of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), Debert zone. The group was formed in 1986 as a federally-incorporated, not-for-profit volunteer association and began locally with 30 members; it now has an estimated 24 volunteers.
Brookfield resident Glen Thompson has been with the club for 28 years and is now a safety officer and active pilot. Both men would love for the community to know more about the club and its value in the area.
“I don’t think it’s well known,” said Thompson, adding it’s important for residents to know about the organization for many reasons, including being aware that sometimes CASARA aircraft flies 500 feet above “the highest obstacle” – such as a tower or hill – while on training or search missions.
“Knowing about us helps so the public doesn’t worry when they see us flying low.”
Spreading the word about CASARA will also hopefully result in more volunteers, the men said. However, it’s something that must be carefully considered because it’s a very “demanding” role, said Betts.
“We are always looking for good people, but it’s demanding … you are in a confined space, often shoulder-to-shoulder in the plane … and mistakes are not tolerated.”
Also to be considered is physical health. A person who is chronically ill, experiences motion sickness or doesn’t get along with others would have a difficult time. Weight has to be considered as well because a weight balance within the aircraft impacts the amount of time the plane can be in the air.
Training is a big part of the initiative as well, said Betts.
“We are continually training. You are never really finished training,” he said, adding anyone who joins the group is trained firstly as a spotter, which is the ability to look for an object during a search mission. Volunteers also have the option to continue training to become a navigator or pilot.
While training is an important part of the group, volunteers are also asked to attend a “few” real missions a year.
“It’s been a while,” since he’s been dispatched on a search mission, said Betts.
“The number of missing airplanes or those that went down are less and less because (equipment) is better and communication is better,” he said.
Betts clarifies CASARA, being federally-regulated, must follow strict follows. For example, volunteers cannot fly over water and they do not go on rescue missions for a missing person because that falls under provincial regulations. CASARA volunteers can, however, work with other authorities such as the RCMP, ground search and rescue, and other search organizations, such as the joint rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax, which CASARA works for.
For more information on CASARA, or to become a volunteer, call George Murray, Debert zone training officer, at 895-1278 or 956-3653.
What: Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA)
Locally operated at: Debert airport
Number of CASARA planes in Debert: 3, all are Cessna 172s
Average age of CASARA members locally: 50s, with an equal mix of men and women
Nationally CASARA consists of: more than 2,100 volunteers in 13 member organizations that represent Canada’s provinces and territories.