Civil Air Patrol

Wisconsin Wing and National Blue Beret conduct successful mission during EAA AirVenture

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa - Cadet Second Lieutenants Tikvah Kulp and her cousin, Anthony Kulp of the Stevens Point Composite Squadron, keep track tail numbers of all incoming planes at the Appleton Base.

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa – Cadet Second Lieutenants Tikvah Kulp and her cousin, Anthony Kulp of the Stevens Point Composite Squadron, keep track tail numbers of all incoming planes at the Appleton Base.

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa - Lt. Col. Dean Klassy, EAA Search and Rescue project officer, works at the Incident Command Post keeping track of all five bases.

Photo by Capt. Jeri Gonwa – Lt. Col. Dean Klassy, EAA Search and Rescue project officer, works at the Incident Command Post keeping track of all five bases activities.

Wisconsin – Under the direction of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, Wisconsin Wing Civil Air Patrol conducted a highly successful precautionary Search and Rescue mission from Tuesday, July 23 – Wednesday, August 8 in support of the EAA AirVenture Fly-in held at Wittman Field, Oshkosh, Wis. with the help of CAP’s National Blue Beret.

The world’s largest fly-in draws thousands of aircraft into Oshkosh and its surrounding airports annually. With approximately 150 CAP volunteers assigned daily during the 17 day mission, tasked assignments included 14 searches for overdue aircraft.  A total of four CAP Cessna aircraft flew 43 precautionary air patrols logging an excess of 60 hours of flight as they monitored for electronic locator transmitter’s signals.  A reported 19 ELTs were heard and silenced; nearly five times the amount from last year.

Ground teams and supporting air crew from Wisconsin 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 covered four major airports in the Oshkosh area.

National Blue Beret, a Civil Air Patrol National Cadet Special Activity, held annually at Wittman Regional Airport, works with Wisconsin Wing in emergency services.  NBB alone logged nearly 7,000 in and outgoing planes at the airport and checked for overdue planes as part of their two week activity.

The Air Force mission is coordinated by Lieutenant Colonel Dean Klassy, mission project officer.  Wisconsin Wing and National Blue Beret members came from 48 states to work together to make the mission a success. 

While National Blue Beret works strictly at the airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin volunteers work the airports surrounding Oshkosh.  Both track the tail numbers of all planes in and out of the airports, locate overdue planes, silence ELT’s and have the ability to expand their search area should the Air Force deem it necessary.

Lt. Col. Dean Klassy had this to say about this year’s mission, “The SAR was slow this year, but that is good for the aviation community.”

He explained that “While the number of precautionary air patrols was up this year, ramp checks [looking for overdue planes] were down and ELT finds were up.  One never knows what will happen on the mission, but the CAP members are ready no matter the situation.  They train year-round for this event.”

This year, Lieutenant Colonel James Peace from Texas Wing and National Blue Beret director; Colonel Rick Franz, Kansas Wing and deputy director; and Lt. Col. Dean Klassy, worked closely together to begin plans for next year’s mission. 

Though National Blue Beret is a separate leadership training activity under the direction of National Headquarters and the cadet program, they also help Wisconsin Wing every year and play an important part in the mission.  After one of their meetings with Klassy, Peace and Franz both commented that “We are all CAP and we work together as one team.” 

“It is a monumental task keeping track of all the planes in and out of the airports surrounding AirVenture,” Klassy continued “and we couldn’t do it alone.  If a plane goes missing, or a natural disaster strikes, it’s all hands on deck.  We have been fortunate in the past few years in that we have not had any trouble; but we are prepared if there is.”

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

Plans are underway for the 2014 EAA Mission to be held July 22 – Aug. 9.

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