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Letter to the Editor

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In 2004, I had the privilege to be one of the last four Labrador pilots left in the Canadian Forces, as all our other rotary-wing Search and Rescue (SAR) pilots were undergoing conversion to the EH-101 Cormorant. As such, it was with great sadness that I presided over the retirement ceremonies of this very fine aircraft. I am writing to you because I take exception to remarks in Mr. Shadwick’s commentary, Transforming Search and Rescue (Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3, Autumn 2005), in which he states that, at the time the Cormorants were introduced, the Labradors were ‘aging and inadequate’.

Canadian Military Journal Cover

Although the Lab was indeed getting old, she was anything but ‘inadequate’. Well suited to SAR operations, the Lab was one of the few helicopters in the world possessing amphibian capabilities; that is, she could land on water and manoeuvre around like a boat. The Lab had a large cabin, well stocked with medical equipment. Thanks to its tandem rotor configuration, we were also able to maintain the aircraft in a stable hover – even in a strong tailwind or crosswind – something a tail rotor-configured helicopter can be hard pressed to do at times. Furthermore, she was well equipped with a full suite of avionics, including all-weather radar and three integrated GPS receivers. Most Lab pilots and maintainers I have known throughout my career will openly praise the virtues of this aircraft.

For the record, the Lab was not inadequate. She just became too costly to maintain and to provision with spare parts, and that is why she was retired from service.

J.L.D. Lachance
Head Aerospace Studies
Canadian Forces College

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DND photo ISC00-726-23a by Master Corporal Danielle Bernier, DGPA Combat Camera

A CH-113 Labrador Helicopter