A group of Civil Air Patrol pilots, spotters and scanners descended Newport Airport on Saturday, gathering to find a “missing airplane” that took off from Newport enroute to a suburban Portland airport. But the weather soon turned terrible.
Of course there was no missing airplane but the drill was very realistic. Pilots and their search teams were briefed on the likely route of the plane, based on its pilot filing a flight plan. Once in the air the teams know the exact route and search it, scanning the ground from 1,000 feet up, looking for any sign of the missing plane. Signs include topped trees, burn marks on the forest or desert floor, disturbed snow at higher elevations, detecting an emergency locator transmitter signal or anything on the ground that just doesn’t look right.
CAP officials say they do these drills once a month in Oregon, and they shift the search areas around the state every time they do them. They say they use experienced searchers with very sophisticated search skills. But they add they’re always looking for new recruits to get the training and some of the experience so when they turn 18, they’re ready to get serious about becoming an integral part of the Civil Air Patrol’s reputation for finding needles in haystacks all over the country. They save lives. A lot of them.
There is a comprehensive young cadet training program that accepts youngsters as young as 12 to volunteer and learn about the patrol. They learn about the theory and tactics of search and rescue operations on the ground and in the air. Through comprehensive training and precise attention to detail, cadets that turn 18 are then qualified to become official members of missing aircraft search teams.
Young people who might like to try out some volunteer work for the CAP, can contact their local airport for information on who to talk to to file an application. They can also contact the CAP at GoCivilAirPatrol.com on line.