After 55 years of service, the final operational flight for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CC-115 Buffalo aircraft was flown on Jan. 15.
The final flight by 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, based out of 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, was a long mission involving airborne search-and-rescue (SAR) standby training. The aircraft was ready to divert to an emergency “at a moment’s notice” from Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria, according to a National Defence news release. Training included SAR tech parachute jumps and parachuting of emergency equipment around Vancouver Island.
“The CC-115 Buffalo . . . has been used for search-and-rescue operations since 1975. Canadians, especially on the West Coast, will recognize the aircraft for its distinctive SAR paint scheme that was likely a welcome sight for many requiring life-saving rescue throughout its distinguished service,” said LCol Rhonda Stevens, Commander, 19 Wing Comox and CC-115 Air Combat Systems Officer, RCAF.
“A special thank you to all those who served on this aircraft; for your remarkable expertise and professionalism. Buffalo crews and maintainers have a lot in common with their aircraft, as they are both known for being hardy and resilient!”
The CC-115 Buffalo was procured between June 1967 and December 1968. Entering service in the RCAF in 1967, the Buffalo initially served as a multi-purpose transportation aircraft and was flown on multiple United Nations missions overseas. In the 1970s, “it was converted to a dual role transport / SAR aircraft, before being exclusively flown in Canada as a fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft,” National Defence said.
The CC-115 has been flown by a variety of Squadrons in the RCAF, including 429, 413, 424, 440 and 442 Squadrons.
“In the Royal Canadian Air Force, we have an incredible respect and strong sense of pride for the aircrew, maintenance and support personnel who have dutifully served alongside the CC-115 Buffalo aircraft over the past 55 years,” said LGen Al Meinzinger, Commander, RCAF.
“These amazing teams, and the ‘Buff’ itself, are known to have operated in many challenging operational environments. Their stories and commitment to operational excellence will be etched into storybooks, and in bidding farewell to the Buff, we will always remember those brave members lost in 1974, who perished while the aircraft was operating overseas on a peacekeeping mission with the United Nations.”
The Department of National Defence said it will retain three CC-115 Buffalo aircraft as historical artefacts “to fulfill the departmental obligations towards history and heritage.” The rest of the aircraft have been or will be transferred to museums or used as training aids.
In the meantime, Canada is to acquire a fleet of 16 CC-295 Kingfisher aircraft to replace both the Buffalo and CC-130H Hercules aircraft in the fixed-wing search and rescue role. The aircraft began arriving at 19 Wing Comox in the fall of 2020, and the final CC-295 is expected to arrive in the fall of 2022.