Search and Rescue

What happens when a SAR is activated

Safety, Search and Rescue

Tuesday 18 October, 2016

Australia has accepted the obligation to provide aeronautical and maritime SAR coordination and services for its territories, territorial seas, and the high seas within its SAR region called a SAR system.

The fundamental aim of the SAR system is to provide assistance to persons in distress.

The responsibility for the coordination of Aviation SAR response is exercised by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Australia on behalf of Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). In accordance with Annex 12 of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the Commonwealth Government, through AMSA, accepts responsibility for the provision of Search and Rescue Services for civil and internationally registered aircraft in Australia’s SAR Region (SRR).

The meaning for 'civil registered' includes those aircraft on the VH register managed by CASA and on the RAAus register which RAAus manages on behalf of CASA (NATSAR Manual, 2014, p. 27)


Awareness and Notification

When the SAR system first becomes aware of an actual or potential emergency, the information collected and the initial actions taken are often critical to successful SAR operations. It must be assumed that in each incident there are survivors who will need assistance and whose chances of survival are reduced by the passage of time.

The success of the SAR operations depends on the speed with which the operation is planned and carried out. Information must be gathered and evaluated to determine the nature of the distress, the appropriate emergency phase, and what action should be taken. Prompt receipt of all available information by the RCC is necessary for thorough evaluation, immediate decision on the best course of action and a timely activation of SAR assets to make it possible to achieve the following:

  1. Locate, support and rescue persons in distress in the shortest possible time.
  2. Use any contribution survivors may still be able to make towards their own rescue while they are still capable of doing so (NATSAR Manual, 2014, p. 75).

How does the SAR system become aware that a RAAus aircraft is in distress?

SAR alerting action is based upon the type of notification and flight procedures adopted by an aircraft, for example:

  1. Aircraft that comply with full reporting procedures where a continuous communications SAR watch is maintained fails to report at the next scheduled time.
  2. Aircraft that have nominated a SARTIME where alerting action commences at the time of expiration of the SARTIME.
  3. Aircraft that have not submitted flight notification where alerting action is commenced on the receipt of incidental information from any source which leads to doubt as to the aircraft’s safety. This includes notification from a person or organisation holding a Flight Note.

When are SAR incidents considered imminent or actual?

An aircraft SAR incident is considered imminent or actual when:

a)     A SARTIME for an aircraft has not been cancelled.

b)     An aircraft fails to report arrival or if it has failed to report position.

c)     ATS declare a SAR phase (INCRFA, ALERFA or DETRESFA).

d)     Information is received that an aircraft on which no flight notification has been lodged is missing, including notification from a person or organisation holding a Flight Note.

e)     An aircraft, which has been given approach or landing instructions, fails to land. Fuel on board is considered to be exhausted or to be insufficient to enable an aircraft to reach safety.

f)      Information is received which indicated that an aircraft is about to make or has been a forced landing, or has ditched or crashed.

g)     Information is received which indicates that the operating efficiency of an aircraft has been impaired to the extent that a forced landing is likely.

h)     A distress beacon is reported to be transmitting (Aircraft required to carry a distress beacon normally have an ELT and/ or PLB but may also carry EPIRBS, for example lift rafts).