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CAP Completes First Accident Discovery of 2022

Data, Radar, And Flight Combine to Locate Remote Mountain Plane Remains

The first mission of the year came only days after January 1st, as a missing plane was reported overdue on its flight from Marana, Arizona to Riverside, California. The CAP National Radar Analysis Team received the alert from the FAA to begin their search with available data, looking for the aircraft along its projected route. The team is no stranger to the process, using data pulled from the pilot's cell carrier and Google account to locate the last known on-network position as a base to begin extrapolation. 

“The team looked at the preliminary radar data and it didn’t make sense. The time in the ALNOT didn’t match any aircraft leaving Marana,” said Lt. Col. Mark Young, radar team commander. “We did see a radar track for a plane leaving Marana about an hour later and flying into weather.”

An Arizona Department of Public Safety Bell Jet Ranger began a local area search as it began looking for the missing plane, finding no emergency beacon signal along its initial search area. Additional aircraft from the Border Patrol began searching in conjunction, but the nearly 330-mile range was too large a swath to search for potentially injured survivors. The radar team narrowed the search area down to the most likely region, which in the following days led search crews to a mountainous location deep in Tohono O'Odham tribal land. 

Eventually the crash site was found, and on-site imagery of the tail number was sent to the Jet Ranger using the Border Patrol's 4G Hotspot while airborne. “This was a great example of a full-on team effort involving several parts of CAP as well as state and local authorities,” said Colonel Rob Pinckard, Arizona Wing Commander. “This was a complex mission, and the reality of (search and rescue) is that it is a process, a continual testing of what we think we know and what that might mean. The trick is to maintain the tenacity and keep moving forward. That’s what we did," he said.



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