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NC Wing Squadrons Conduct Joint Search and Rescue Exercise

white cessna on ground
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A simulated downed Cessna hiding among the trees in Brunswick County, NC. The realistic painted tarp allows mission aircrews to search for a simulated target without using a training beacon. Photo Credit: Lt Col Doug Thumm, CAP (click image to view full size)
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Cape Fear and Brunswick County Composite Squadrons Simulate a Mid-Air Collision in SAR Exercise

8/9/2019––Members of the Cape Fear Composite Squadron and the Brunswick County Composite Squadron in the North Carolina Wing of Civil Air Patrol (CAP) worked together on Sunday, 4 August 2019, practicing one of CAP's core missions: locating downed aircraft. 

While general aviation safety is at an all-time high, finding an aircraft crash within just a few hours is critical to the survival of the aircrew and passengers. The exercise’s scenario simulated a mid-air collision over Boiling Springs Lake during simulated foggy weather at dusk. The training exercise provided the opportunity for seasoned members to train newer members - both in aircraft and on ground search teams.

Each squadron launched an airplane in the exercise. The Cape Fear Squadron’s airplane searched out the practice beacon and guided a ground team to the accident site 25 miles away in the Green Swamp. The Brunswick County airplane orbited and served as a radio relay, before conducting a visual search for the second simulated downed airplane. Two other CAP members stayed near the Cape Fear Jetport, operating radios and updating the mission information system. With the opening of the new airport terminal next month, the Brunswick Squadron will now have a fixed location for such activities.

NC-170 Emergency Services Officer, 2d Lt Richard Sullivan, planned the event. “It's important to create new and challenging scenarios to enhance skills and keep members interested. We developed a new tool, a white painted Cessna airplane on a camouflage tarp. Its easy to deploy and gives a realistic target for aircrews to find from their 1,000 feet search patterns," he noted.

Maj Jeff Walker, Cape Fear Composite Squadron Commander, was one of the mission pilots. He said, “About one-third of CAP senior members have some military experience. My co-pilot used to fly MV-22 Ospreys for the USMC."  After honing in on the emergency beacon signal, he orbited and helped guide the ground teams to the area of the accident site. They then simulated radio failure and used non-verbal aerial techniques to lead the CAP van in, as the beacon was located in the middle of nowhere.

Mission exercise complete.