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Virginia Airborne Search & Rescue members hold a variety of certifications and skill sets that allow us to perform our mission professionally and comprehensively. Each year current and prospective members undergo many hours of training. Some of this training is our in-house "Flight Officer Academy" that prepares all of our prospective flight officers to effectively coordinate an aerial search from a helicopter or unmanned aerial system. Below is an outline of the training pipeline for all prospective flight officers and pilots.


Project Lifesaver

Project Lifesaver is a 501 (C)(3) community based, public safety, non-profit organization that provides law enforcement, fire/rescue, and caregivers with a program designed to protect, and when necessary, quickly locate individuals with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering. The organization was founded in 1999 in Chesapeake, Virginia. The necessity of this program was determined through the correlation between cognitive conditions and the act of wandering.  With the dramatic increase of cognitive conditions since the inception of the organization, the program has grown from a localized program to a program recognized internationally as a proven and effective method of “bringing loved ones home.”

VASARS maintains a mission-ready cadre of Project Lifesaver Ground and Air Certified pilots and flight officers.

Aerial Search

Our flight officers and pilots conduct training missions and patrols on a routine basis to keep their skills sharp. From night training with our night vision equipment to charting maritime search patterns, we constantly test ourselves to become experts in whatever missions we are called upon to perform.

From our vantage point in the helicopter, we have an easier time locating lost persons or patients than those searching from the ground. Using our advanced navigation capability and communications equipment, we can guide ground searchers and agencies to the subject of the search. Many of our members boast impressive qualifications earned over long careers in Police, Fire/EMS, military aviation and the private sector. Pilots and flight officers go through a rigorous training regimen that ensures they can effectively conduct search & rescue operations.

Self-Sufficient Command and Control

Alongside being able to integrate into a multi-agency search package, VASARS also can operate as a self-sufficient search unit. In order to facilitate this, we have key membership positions dedicated to many roles. Air Support members set up and run command from either our hangar or our Mobile Command Center, set up off-airfield landing zones for operations near the search area, produce search area maps and images, coordinate with local agencies, and monitor meteorological conditions. Many are Project Lifesaver certified Electronic Search Specialists, and are experienced with command and control operations.

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