SARTIMES and SARWATCHES–the cost of forgetting to cancel

image: AMSA

Did you know that in 2018, over 30% of inadvertent search and rescue incidents were caused by a failure to cancel SARTIMEs and failure to report arrivals (SARWATCH)?Unnecessary responses can divert search and rescue resources away from a real distress situation, potentially putting other lives at risk. They can also be very costly.

A SARTIME is a time nominated by the pilot for the initiation of search and rescue action. Thousands of SARTIMEs expire each year without being cancelled by pilots.

How to cancel a SARTIME

Only the pilot in command is authorised to cancel a SARTIME. They can be cancelled using the same methods they are lodged:

  • online—this is the best way to lodge, amend and cancel your SARTIME. You may nominate a SARTIME using an ICAO Flight Notification. NAIPS Internet Service provides automatic confirmation of successful flight notification.
  • by phone—you can lodge, amend and cancel your SARTIME by calling CENSAR on 1800 814 931.
  • by radio—if neither online or phone are available, you can lodge, amend and cancel your SARTIME by VHF or HF radio. Remember that there may be some delays due to operator workload or HF interference.

What happens when a pilot doesn’t cancel a SARTIME or fails to report arrival (SARWATCH)?

Managing your SARTIME and cancelling it at the end of your flight is a critical responsibility for any pilot in command. It ensures that Airservices and the emergency response authorities know that you have arrived safely. It prevents unnecessary search and rescue operations which are costly and very resource intensive. If a pilot doesn’t cancel SARTIME the following will happen:

  • air traffic services will start checking to see if you have arrived safely. It is important that you remain in contact after your flight. Make sure your contact details on your flight notification are correct. If necessary, authorities will call you to confirm your safety.
  • if safety cannot be confirmed promptly, an emergency phase is declared and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) commences search and rescue action.

What should I do if I forget to cancel my SARTIME?

If you forget to cancel your SARTIME, call SARTIME on 1800 814 931. If you think you’ve inadvertently activated the SAR system, contact AMSA’s JRCC as quickly as possible. Call 1800 815 257 within Australia or +61 2 6230 6899 outside Australia. The emergency contact numbers are open 24 hours/7 days a week. By doing this search and rescue authorities can avoid initiating an unnecessary response. There is no penalty for inadvertent activations.

Tips and tricks

Keep in mind the following tips:

  • amend your SARTIME during your flight if you think your arrival might be delayed.
  • if you change aircraft or have cancelled or replanned a flight at the last moment, check if your SARTIME is still active.
  • a good way to remember to cancel your SARTIME is to set a reminder on your mobile phone. Set the reminder to alert you five minutes before your SARTIME is set to expire.
  • another way to remember to cancel your SARTIME/SARWATCH is to add it to your post-flight checks.
  • if there is no phone reception at your destination cancel your SARTIME on HF on arrival. If your aircraft is not equipped with HF you may contact sector and request them to cancel your SARTIME. You may need to do this in the air as VHF coverage may be limited on the ground.

For more information visit the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s website.


  1. How’s that will ya, cancelling SAR by R/T is NOT the preferred option! I guess it’s for the best make it easier not smarter !

  2. What on earth were the causes of the majority – nearly 70% – of the inadvertent search and rescue incidents?

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