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Royal Canadian Air Force wrapping up helicopter training in Okanagan Valley

Click to play video: 'RCAF wrapping up helicopter training in Okanagan Valley' RCAF wrapping up helicopter training in Okanagan Valley
RCAF wrapping up helicopter training in Okanagan Valley – Mar 25, 2021

Royal Canadian Air Force helicopters have been flying high above the Okanagan Valley since the middle of March.

The RCAF’s 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, based in Valcartier, Que., flew three of its CH-146 Griffon helicopters to B.C. in a C-17 transport plane and has been training out of Penticton.

The squadron’s visit to the Okanagan is all part of their ‘Faucon Alpin’ or Alpine Falcon exercise.

“It’s an exercise where we practice mountain-flying techniques,” squadron Lt.-Col. Alex Dubois told Global News. 
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Techniques including overshoots in the nearby Monashee Mountains. That’s where a pilot flies low over a landing zone briefly to assess wind direction before attempting a landing.

“We like to exercise those type of very fine techniques to land in the mountains,” said Dubois, “because there are very tricky winds when we operate in high altitudes and valleys and high peaks.”
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As to why the Okanagan, it’s because the local environment can closely mimic theatres of operations that the Squadron is deployed to, like Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The Okanagan is actually one of the places of choice in North America,” said Dubois, noting the RCAF performs mountain helicopter training in the Okanagan, almost annually.

So much so that the RCAF actually sends its helicopter pilots to an elite, four-week mountain flying course with Canadian Helicopters’ Topflight training based out of Penticton.

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“They fly with that company to learn the techniques,” said Dubois. “Then we come here when we can to practice it on our own aircraft.”For the last couple of weeks, the squadron has been flying missions from Penticton to Kelowna and as far north as Revelstoke.

On Thursday, the squadron landed at Kelowna International Airport to begin the task of dismantling the three Griffon helicopters they brought with them. 

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