Search and Rescue

The JRCC has contacted me about a missing or overdue aircraft. Is this a normal process?

Safety, Search and Rescue

Tuesday 18 October, 2016

Each SAR operation is carried out under the coordination of a SAR Mission Coordinator (SMC) designated for the purpose by the appropriate SAR Authority who shall arrange for the provision of suitable search units. 

Communication checks are conducted by the SMC when information, in addition to the initial report, is required. A most common situation is where the craft is overdue or unreported. It is the time when detective work is required of the SMC.

Communication checks may be conducted prior to, during or after dispatching search units, depending upon the urgency of the incident.

Communication checks involve not only extensive use of various networks to provide additional information, but also may involve physical checks of areas where the craft may be located. Generally the purpose of communication checks are to continue efforts to contact the craft, to determine if the craft is overdue or unreported, to localise the search area, and to get more factual data for evaluation of subsequent SAR action.

Initial communication checks may consist of contacting and checking major facilities within the areas where the craft might be or might have been seen, and is normally conducted during the uncertainty phase. These checks should have a reasonably effective probability of locating the missing craft within a short period of time, if the craft is merely unreported rather than actually missing.

Where initial checks fail to locate the craft, communication checks are to be expanded to check a wider variety of possible sources of information on the missing craft, including physically checking possible locations, such as harbours, marinas and airports.


Communications Checks for Aircraft

When an aircraft subject to a SAR watch fails to report by a prescribed time, or if an aircraft fails to report, the responsible ATS unit shall: 

a) Attempt to contact the aircraft direct by calling on normal and alternative frequencies.

b) Attempt to contact the aircraft via another aircraft.

c) Ascertain whether another unit has received the report.

d) Arrange for other ground units to call the aircraft on normal or alternative frequencies.


Actions by JRCC (Joint Rescue Coordination Centre) Australia

JRCC Australia will conduct checks by:

a) Contacting the aircraft operator and destination and alternative airports to confirm that the aircraft has not arrived.

b) Having physical checks of aircraft parking areas and hangars conducted at uncontrolled airports and airfields.

c) Thoroughly evaluating the flight plan, weather, terrain, possible communication delays, last known position, text of radio calls, pilot’s qualifications, and the performance of the aircraft under favourable conditions.

d) Compute the time of fuel exhaustion if not done earlier.

e) Notify the operating agency of the aircraft.

 (Reference: NATSAR Manual, 2014, pp. 90-92)