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Cannibalized U.S. heli’s to improve Cormorant program

September 29, 2011  By Carey Fredericks

Sept. 29, 2011, Ottawa - Defence Minister Peter MacKay says buying surplus American aircraft will boost the availability of Canada's beleaguered Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters.

National Defence spent $163 million this summer buying leftovers from Washington's cancelled VH-71 presidential helicopter program, which are an updated version of CH-149 Cormorants.

A briefing note to MacKay warned last year that the Cormorant's availability is "barely adequate" to meet search-and-rescue requirements, requiring aging Sea King helicopters to be put on standby along the East Coast to replace them.

MacKay was under fire once again Wednesday for being picked up by a search helicopter last summer after cutting short a Newfoundland vacation.

A Defence Department briefing, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws, says using spares from canabalized U.S. helicopters will allow air force maintainers to stop robbing their own aircraft of parts to keep the fleet in the air.


New Democrat defence critic Jack Harris says the U.S. choppers should be upgraded to flying condition and added to Canada's rescue fleet.


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