The Elk Valley Air Search and Rescue have purchased a used aircraft to aid in search efforts and transportation after getting help from the local community.
“We’ve been running the Air Search and Rescue unit in the Elk Valley for seven years, but we were renting an airplane,” said Brent Bidston, president of the Elk Valley Air SAR. “For the last year we were fundraising and thanks to the very generous nature of local businesses and a contribution from the RDEK, we have managed to buy a newer and better aircraft”
The new airplane marks a significant change because, according to Bidston, relying on a rental aircraft has been inconvenient for search teams.
“Our unit had not been in operation, because although we are all qualified, we did not have an aircraft readily available when needed so we could not be an active search and rescue unit. Now we are, we’re fully active again for ground search and rescue and RCMP,” said Bidston.
The team’s new Cessna 182 was purchased used, but Bidston said they got a good deal on it. He added that he is pleased with the improved airplane.
“It’s a high winged, single-engine aircraft which is ideal for search and rescue because we’ve got a clear view down to the ground,” explained Bidston. “It’s more powerful, faster, take more weight and fly longer than the aircraft we had previously which was a smaller model of a Cessna.”
In addition to helping with Search and Rescue efforts, Bidston said the plane will be used by Angel Flight East Kootenay, a charity he started last April, which helps transport people to medical appointments in Kelowna for free.
“This airplane that was bought by the community is going to be used for the community,” said Bidston. “It’s going to be used for air search and rescue, and Angel Flight East Kootenay.”
Using its Cessna 182, Bidston said Angel Flight East Kootenay will be able to get a patient to Kelowna in about an hour and a half, opposed to a 7 to 8-hour drive.
Bidston added that the Elk Valley Air Search and Rescue team hopes to get a lot of use out of its new airplane.