Civil Air Patrol

From locating ELT’s to Presentation of Awards – All in a day’s work!

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa – Periodically listening for ELTs, 2nd Lt. Joseph Geldermann checks to make sure that none are heard in the bay at Seaplane Base.

Photo by Lt. Col. Julie Sorenson – Maj. Rose Hunt presents Lt. Col. Dean Klassy with the Great Lakes Region Excellence Service Award during the 2012 EAA Air Force assigned mission.

Oshkosh:  It is no secret that this summer has been both a hot and dry one.  That is until the week that EAA’s AirVenture started.  With over 3 ½ inches of rain falling thus far since the beginning of the world’s largest fly-in around Oshkosh and surrounding communities, it can make for a challenging mission at times.

Seaplane Base located on Lake Winnebago is marred with mud holes in low spots and due to the high winds this past Friday; they temporarily closed the bay to any seaplanes due to choppy waters with whitecaps.  Diverting any landings to an island two miles north of the base where the waters were a little calmer; didn’t help one pilot who landed rather hard, setting off his electronic locator transmitter (ELT).

The signal was heard and the Air Force contacted Civil Air Patrol to help locate the source of the transmission.  Members of the Sheboygan Composite Squadron who were staffing the Seaplane Base, immediately sprung into action when contacted by the Incident Command Post.

This base, arguably the most peaceful and beautiful base that CAP covers during EAA AirVenture, is different than all the other bases in that the planes land and take off from the water instead of an airfield.  Finding the plane is more of a challenge as the typical mode of transportation of walking or a vehicle does not work when needing to verify if a plane has landed or if an ELT has sent out its distress call.

1st Lieutenant Timothy Kreutz, emergency service training officer, was able to get a ride on one of EAA’s boats out to the planes that are moored in the bay.  The volunteers from EAA who staff this beautiful “airfield” during EAA are there to help bring the planes into the bay after they land on the water.  Should an ELT be heard, they provide a ride to the CAP volunteers in order to locate the plane that is overdue or if an ELT is heard.

After making sure the transmission was not coming from any of the moored planes, the search for a plane at the island began.  Much to the surprise of all, there were actually four planes that had used the alternate landing area on the lake.  The owner of the plane whose ELT was sounding turned off the device once he was told that it had been triggered.  They waited until another boat could arrive to give the pilot a ride back to Seaplane Base before returning.

This incident ended with no harm to person or property, but that is not always the case and CAP members never know how the situation will end.  It has been what many would consider a slow year for the Air Force assigned mission, but that is a good thing.  Just knowing that CAP is there to quickly find a plane and its occupants that could be in trouble, gives comfort to the many pilots who are doing what they love to do best – fly.

Ask any pilot and they will explain that they love the freedom of flying above the earth.  The scenes and freedom experienced is second to none.  Generally all is well and pilots make their destinations safely.  However should something go wrong; what many do not know is that CAP is there ready to help should they need it.

When an ELT sounds its alarm, normally the FAA is notified, triggering a call to the Air Force who in turn will task CAP to locate the device.  In some instances, the sound simply “disappears” generally meaning the pilot has flown somewhere else, unaware that his ELT was set off.  Other times, the device is found in someone’s home who either didn’t know what the device was or how it is triggered.  Simply throwing the device on a table or in a dumpster will set it off.

The response time and precision in which CAP’s ground teams and aircrews work however due to their training, gives the pilots a sense of security knowing that these volunteers, over 60,000 nationwide, are ready and willing to help should the need arise.  Many pilots simply do not know what CAP does for aviation, in particular their role in search and rescue in the case of an overdue or downed plane.

Wisconsin Wing Civil Air Patrol works this mission every year during EAA’s AirVenture.  For the past three years, Lieutenant Colonel Dean Klassy has been the project officer and incident commander for the mission.  What many do not know are the hours that he pours into the planning of the mission for the year leading up to it.

Coordinating four bases in which Wisconsin volunteers are based and all that goes with planning such a mission is a year long process.  Klassy is already making notes for next year’s mission as he looks for ways to improve operations.

The mission takes approximately 150 volunteers on a daily basis for a two week period.  Coordinating schedules to make sure that all shifts are covered is no small feat.  Things such as transportation, aircraft, communications, lodging and personnel, just to name a few, are all things that must be coordinated to make the mission a success.

Because of his determination and excellent planning skills, Klassy received the Great Lakes Region Exceptional Service Award during the Wisconsin Wing Conference held in April of this year.  Due to his recent job relocation, Klassy was unable to accept the award at that time.

Major Rose Hunt, Wisconsin Wing’s vice-commander however wanted to make it a special event for Klassy and presented him with his certificate on Friday at the Fond du Lac base where the wing’s mobile command center (MCC) is stationed for the mission.

The MCC is near and dear to Klassy’s heart.  Knowing the importance of having the right equipment during a mission, Klassy has spent many hours teaching others how to use the massive RV turned communication center.  It is the pride and joy of Wisconsin Wing and of Klassy himself.

Missions can only be successful with the right leadership and with dedicated members to follow and carry out the plan.  Wisconsin Wing and the Great Lakes Region Civil Air Patrol recognize the leadership quality that Klassy possesses and utilizes to make the EAA AirVenture mission a success.

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