One of the RCAF’s CH-149 Cormorant helicopters was attacked last month while it was parked near former Canadian Forces Station Saglek, now a remotely operated radar base more than 590 kilometres north-northwest of Happy Valley/Goose Bay in Labrador. Rather than an attack from an adversary, however, the predator was a very Canadian polar bear.
The bear managed to open an emergency entrance window on the helicopter’s right-side door, another emergency entrance window on the rear left side and the cover of the emergency flotation device compartment on the left side. The bear did not, however, make it to the inside of the aircraft. This all occurred while the crew were asleep in the station’s living quarters.
The Cormorant was conducting a planned two-week-long search and rescue exercise in mountainous territory when poor visibility prevented it from returning to its planned destination, a helipad at the remote radar site. Its pilots chose a nearby abandoned airstrip to set down on instead.
“The crew had to park the aircraft down below, not up at elevation like they wanted to,” said LCol Brent Vaino, commander of 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron in a statement. “Because of that, it’s an area with a body of water on either side and polar bears do occasionally transit on either side of them, and this case that’s what happened.”
Photo credit: RCAF