Think outside the box when replacing search planes, bidders urge Ottawa

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - A pair of leading U.S. aircraft-makers is urging Ottawa to think outside the box as the government prepares to revive a long-stalled program to replace the country's search-and-rescue planes.

Boeing and Bell Helicopter, partners in the V-22 Osprey, plan to enter into the competition the tilt-rotor aircraft that can fly like a plane, but also hover like a helicopter.

In an unusually candid statement, company officials expressed concern that the aircraft's "full-value" for search-and-rescue might not be appreciated under the government's approach to the program.

Robert Dompka, a senior executive at Bell Helicopter, says the firm would like to see extra criteria added to the planned procurement.

He says the program is weighted toward replacing legacy aircraft, the 50-year-old C-115 Buffalos and nearly four decade-old C-130 Hercules, rather than looking to the future.

Dompka says Bell would like to see defence planners take a "broader perspective" and consider alternative ways of conducting missions, such as using an aircraft that can search, arrive at a scene, hover and conduct a rescue.