Civil Air Patrol

Fifteen day EAA Search and Rescue mission comes to a close

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa – Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Krueger, Monday’s incident commander, keeps track of the mission’s progress.

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa – Cadet Airman Jon Cherwin from Sheboygan Composite Squadron logs the radio communications between the incident command post and Seaplane base.

Madison, Wis. –  Under the direction of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), Wisconsin Wing Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducted a highly successful precautionary Search and Rescue (SAR) mission from Wednesday, July 18 – Wednesday, August 1 in support of the EAA AirVenture Fly-in being held at Wittman Field, Oshkosh, Wis.

The world’s largest fly-in draws approximately 10,000 aircraft into Oshkosh and its surrounding airports annually. With an average of over 100 CAP volunteers assigned daily during the 15 day mission, tasked assignments included 30 searches for overdue aircraft.  A total of four Civil Air Patrol aircraft flew 26 precautionary air patrols (PAP) logging an excess of 50 hours of flight as they monitored for electronic locator transmitter’s (ELT) signals.  A reported four ELTs were heard and silenced; a number considerably lower than last year.

Ground teams and supporting air crew were placed strategically around the 50 mile radius of Wittman Regional Airport in order to facilitate a quick response should an emergency arise.  This year’s mission was expanded by a 15 mile radius which covers four major airports in the Oshkosh area.

Wisconsin Wing’s Mobile Command Center monitored all communications within the mission as well as watched the weather for any approaching storms.  It was no secret that this summer has been both a hot and dry one.  However with over 3 ½ inches of rain falling throughout the week, it can make for a challenging mission at times.

Seaplane Base located on Lake Winnebago was marred with mud holes in low spots and due to the high winds; they had to temporarily close the bay to 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 ELT. 

The signal was heard and the Air Force contacted CAP 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 incident ended with no harm to person or property, but that is not always the case.  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.

Most ELTs that were heard this year simply “disappeared” when an air or ground crew searched for them.  Since these were heard at airports, it is of a general belief that these planes, not knowing their device was triggered, simply flew on to another destination.

Blue Beret, a National Cadet Special Activity held annually at Wittman Regional Airport, helps support Wisconsin with emergency services as part of their two week activity.  Logging all incoming and outgoing planes at the Wittman Regional Airport and checking for overdue planes are just some of their responsibility.

The majority of the mission is supported by Wisconsin Wing members from throughout the state.  While Blue Beret works strictly at the airport in Oshkosh, these Wisconsin volunteers work the 50 mile radius surrounding Oshkosh and can expand their area should the Air Force deem it necessary.

There are many agencies that work together with CAP to make this SAR a great success; FAA, Lockhead Martin Flight Service, Coast Guard and their Auxiliary, EAA, Air Force, AFRCC, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM), National Guard, airport managers at the four airports as well as county and local law enforcement.

Lieutenant Colonel Dean Klassy, project officer, had this to say about this year’s mission, “The SAR has been slower than in the past year which is good for the aviation community. We will have members ready and available for the 2013 EAA SAR.”

Coordinating the fifteen day event, Klassy stated “I am looking forward to the EAA SAR 2013; mark your calendars for July 24 to August 7, 2013”

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