Military seeks out explosives

A METAL-DETECTOR carrying helicopter is searching the grounds of Greater Vernon for military explosives. - John Olafson Photo
A METAL-DETECTOR carrying helicopter is searching the grounds of Greater Vernon for military explosives.
— image credit: John Olafson Photo

An unusual aircraft can be seen hovering over the hills the next few weeks in search of military explosives.

The aircraft itself, a helicopter, is not the unusual part. It is the attachment, a long triangular-shaped metal detector, which the helicopter must balance with in flight.

The device is being used by Canadian military personnel over the next four-to-six weeks in search of what was left behind in the 1930s.

“Any remnants that might be found in the former Second World War training areas,” said Col. Rick Williams, who is in town assisting with the collection of data.

“It’s the type of things people in the area have been stumbling on in the past decade or so.”

An unknown number of live shells may still be in the area, as the Vernon Army Camp was used as a training facility during the war.

The goal is to remove any potentially dangerous objects in the area with the collection of data from the metal-detecting helicopter.

“Ultimately, the objective is to mitigate the risk that may be there and if there are any live objects, removing them,” said Williams.

The work has been underway since last week with test flights, which proved to be a bit of a challenge for the pilot, trying to balance the detectors while hovering above ground.

“It’s a challenge for the pilot flying only one metre to two metres off the ground,” said Williams.

The data collection is also a tedious process, as the detectors pick up more than just shells.

“They’re metal detectors so they’ll pick up all metals, including rocks.”

But there is an opportunity for the public to help out with the process.

Anyone who knows where there may be shells or other war remnants can call their tips to local representative Milton Skaalrud at 250-462-5867, or by calling Williams at 403-410-2330, extension 3560.

The duration of the work could take longer than expected if the weather does not co-operate.

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