VAC - the Volunteer Air Corps

Introduction

VAC, the Volunteer Air Corps was founded in 1961 for the purpose of organizing General Aviation pilots to be a service during Civil Defence preparedness. Since that time the threat scenario has changed and today VAC is the main asset in Sweden to support the society with flying resources, during disasters and other major public emergencies. Furthermore VAC is also through the Home Guard flying groups, and SIG, (Sea information flying group), assisting both the Army and the Navy in their surveillance work and other tasks.

VAC is a non profit voluntarily organization under the auspices of the Department of Defence, which through the Army and the Navy and the Swedish Emergency Management Agency contributes to the funding of VAC. By performing commisson

Flights to different authorities VAC is itself earning about 50 % of its turnover. All these flights have been granted by the Swedish Civil Aviation Inspectorate as non commercial commissions. The VAC shall not compete with commercial operators.

VAC believe that well coordinated General Aviation volunteer pilots and support personnel can contribute significantly to emergency relief efforts, supplementing and complementing existing resources by using the fleet of airplanes and the highly trained pilots involved in General Aviation.

Mission statement

The VAC promotes, coordinates and develops the General Aviation volunteer participation in emergency relief efforts as well the support of the Swedish Armed forces.

Operating concept

VAC´s operating concept provides that General Aviation pilots and flying clubs using available airplanes can contribute invaluable lifesaving services during major public emergencies as well as supporting the Armed forces by building up an effective organization all over Sweden with a proper preparedness prior to an emergency and for disciplined response during one.

Organizational Structure

Central level

The VAC organization consists of a head office at Västerås airport. The rest of the organization is decentralized and built up by 23 regional divisions, by large one in each county. The total number of members is about 2400.

The main task of the head office is to make the yearly overall planning and keeping contact with the authorities that will use VAC´s services. Another area of importance is the keeping of a high air safety standard within the corps. That is closely supervised by the Swedish Civil Aviation Inspectorate. Thus detailed regulations, operational procedures and manuals have to be produced by the head office.

The training of pilots to perform different commissions is also an important task. Many commissions require that the pilots have the skill of low level flying. Before entering such a training course, the pilot must have at least 200 hours of flight experience.

New commissions create the need for development of new courses which are tailored to the needs of the authorities that will use the resources of VAC.

To communicate and transmit information in an effective way is very important during a mission. Thus VAC has its own radio system and has developed means of transmitting digital pictures from the airplanes. There is a constant need to follow up the technical development.

The annual turn over for the VAC is about 2 500 000 $.

Regional level

The task of the regional divisions is to plan and organize the flying within the region according to the need of the different authorities. The staff and pilots at the regional level are not paid for their work.

The size of the regional divisions varies according to the size of the region and the anticipated emergencies and the need from the Swedish Armed forces. Normally the size is between, 24-70 pilots.

A regional division is managed by three people, one division chief, his deputy and one person responsible for the air safety and all flying operations.

The structure of a regional division consists a three blocks. The number of pilots in the blocks varies according to the needs in the region. All regions have Home Guard flying groups, intended for the Home Guard, and FIG groups, (Flying Task force), intended for the support of the society at emergencies. Only the coastal regions have SIG groups, (Sea information flying group), intended for the Swedish Navy.

Recruiting of pilots

The pilots are recruited on regional basis mostly from the local flying clubs. The pilots have different backgrounds, some are PPL pilots, and others are Airline pilots or former Air force pilots. The minimum requirement for starting low level flight training is 200 hours experience. Many of the commissions require low level flying certificate.

VAC produces about 7500 hours of flying per year.

VAC aircrafts 

Through agreements with the flying clubs, VAC has access to a large number of single-engine aeroplanes suitable for a variety of tasks. Privately owned aircraft are used to supplement this resource. The planes are based at a large number of large and small airfields in all counties. About 200 airplanes are contracted to VAC for use.

The VAC tasks

Tasks for the civil society

The VAC shall have the capacity to support the authorities, which have signed agreements of cooperation in emergencies. For that purpose FIG, (Flying task forces) are established in all regions.

The main task for VAC is to create a common picture of the scope of the emergency for central, regional, and local –administrations, which shall enable them to take the right decisions and to allocate the resources in the best way. It shall also support the command and control in the field by transmitting information about changing situations.

The FIG, (Flying task groups), have contracted pilots, who shall be able to be in action within about 2 hours. The pilots shall be trained for their special commissions and they shall be given at least 6 hours of flight training per year in their roles.

The size of the FIG shall be 8 pilots or more depending on the needs in the region. The group will be commanded by a chief. The group has a standby schedule. The pilot in charge will be called by ARCC, (National Air Rescue Centre)

Examples of tasks performed by FIG are:

  • Discovery of forest fires and directing fire brigades to the scene
  • Sea rescue operations
  • Observing damage on power lines, railways and roads after storms, flooding and blizzards
  • Search for missing people together with the police
  • Surveying of flooded rivers and lakes
  • Indicating and measuring radiation levels
  • Home in on wild animals with radio transmitters
  • General support to the municipal rescue services and county administrations at emergency situations

Tasks for the Army 

The HV groups, (Home Guard flying group), shall support the Home Guard with surveillance, intelligence information, transportation and target spotting.

In all there are 32 groups consisting of 8 pilots. The groups are supported by the Army with equipment and provisions.

Tasks for the Navy 

The SIG groups, (Sea information groups), shall provide the Navy with information about the ships that moves along the Swedish coast. They shall also take part in NATO exercises to identify different vessels. There are a total of4 groups.

Maintaining VAC´s competence and skills

Training and exercises 

Newly recruited pilots will be given a general introduction to disaster relief techniques and handling of emergencies and also which authorities that are responsible for different matters.

After that they will be given the low flying training if they have at least 200 hours flying time. Later they will be trained for various types of commissions depending on the need for new pilots in different areas.

All over the country there are regional exercises together with different authorities as well as refresher courses.

Technical equipment 

The development of new technology and new operational areas is continuing unabated, in close collaboration with clients and other organisations.

VAC has its own radio system which is used by the emergency services in Sweden and it is independent of other public systems. VAC has also developed a system for taking and sending digital pictures from the airplane in a real time operation.

Contacting VAC

VAC head office

FFK, Hässlögatan 20, 721 31 Västerås, Sweden

Office: +46-21-440 33 00

Fax: +46-21-440 33 77

E-mail: ks@ffk.se

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