AFRCC, CAP set to support Sun ‘n Fun 2008 aviators
By Ms. Brooke Davis, 1st Air Force Public Affairs
/ Published April 10, 2008
LAKELAND, FLA. --
First Air Force units have taken measures to help speed search and rescue assistance to pilots flying here for the 2008 Sun 'n Fun fly-in.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, located at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., opened a precautionary mission last Sunday to enhance the Civil Air Patrol's ability to respond to emergency locator transmissions, (ELT) or missing aircraft that may require search and rescue services.
"We work with our Air Force Auxiliary, or CAP, early during a major aviation event like Sun 'n Fun, so they can preposition pilots and aircraft to be ready to respond in case an incident occurs," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Barton, AFRCC search and rescue coordinator.
Thus far the First Air Force-centric team has not been called on but, based on the experiences of previous years, they will continue to standby to assist through Sunday, when Sun 'n Fun 2008 concludes.
The AFRCC and CAP coordinated efforts last April 17 in response to three missing aircraft at Sun 'n Fun 2007. Two of the missing aircraft were located and determined to be non-distress related. The third crashed in a parking lot adjacent to the Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport; local authorities responded and the pilot survived. A day previous two men died when their experimental aircraft crash just short of the runway at Lakeland. Local authorities brought the situation under control.
In 2007, the AFRCC responded to 7,322 incidents. Of those incidents, 468 lives were saved, according to their records.
"As far as who responds to the search and rescue, CAP does roughly 90 percent of our searches," said Capt. Bob Nichols, watch supervisor for AFRCC.
The AFRCC and CAP members are also part of a First Air Force team attending Sun 'n Fun 2008 to meet with general aviation pilots to discuss air defense and the enforcement of FAA-imposed temporary flight restricted and air defense identification zones in the United States. First Air Force members will also educate pilots on intercept procedures and encourage them to consistently check Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS), and discuss issues at large with the general aviation audience.
"Most of the team are private pilots and share the same interests and concerns in general aviation," said Mike Strickler, Public Affairs Operations Officer at First Air Force, "so we are able to convey the duties we carry out in a common language of aviation."
Right now, those issues include registering 406 MHz Emergency Beacons, filing and closing flight plans and checking NOTAMS for Temporary Flight Restrictions. According to Captain Nichols satellites will stop monitoring 121.5 frequencies on February 1, 2009, so it's important for pilots to invest in 406 MHz beacons and register them with the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database system at NOAA.
"When pilots register their 406 ELTs it reduces the amount of time we need to respond to an emergency transmission, and having registered emergency contact information for the ELT owner makes it easier for us to locate the aircraft and assist pilots and passengers if needed," he said.