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Flying high

CF-18s in area for exercises

Malcolm Gorrill
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 15/00) - While other birds are winging their way south as fast as possible, some high tech fliers have come North.

Several CF-18 fighter jets, plus a refuelling Hercules aircraft, have been at the Canadian Forces Forward Operating Location (FOL) here since Nov. 29. Along with the jets came about 100 personnel from Cold Lake, Alta. and Winnipeg.

FOL commander Major Rob Parker said they're here to take part in NORAD exercises here designed to protect and re-assert Canada's sovereignty. He pointed out the air force conducts activities here two or three times a year, and that he's been to Inuvik several times.

The air force conducted exercises in Inuvik back in March.

Parker said the operation has been scheduled to last a month.

Suited to North

He said the harsh climate poses special challenges.

"We have to wear more clothing just in case, God forbid, we have to jettison and spend the night on an ice floe," Parker said. "You get used to it."

He added the CF-18 has some features which make it more suitable for Northern conditions than some other military aircraft. For instance, if they spot someone stranded on an ice floe or on land, a pilot can drop down an Arctic SKAD (survival kit air droppable).

"This store has things like life rafts and sleeping bags and a little bit of food, and maybe some kerosene heaters and those kinds of things," Parker explained.

He pointed this droppable package is one way to offset the disadvantage of operating out of the North, especially when search and rescue forces stationed in the south have a long way to come when called - just to get to Inuvik.

Parker said the jet's relatively heavy landing gear makes it especially good for the North.

"It allows us to do almost like a controlled crash on the runway if we have to, if the runway conditions are bad. We also have the tail hook there, which will allow us to use the cable to stop in the event that the snow is deep and the runway's bad."