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Sat, Mar 15, 2008

BentProp Project Hosts Seminar At WAI 2008

"Last Flight Home-Searching For And Finding MIAs"

by ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas

The educational sessions started Friday at the Women in Aviation Conference in San Diego. No matter what topic you're interested in, there's a session to meet it --
"Human Factors in Today's Environment;" "How to Become an Air Traffic Controller;" "Aircraft Dispatcher Opportunities."

The majority of topics are designed with assisting you in your chosen aviation path or just help with everyday issues and how to cope. But some panels are special and will leave you wondering what you can do to help.

"Last Flight Home-Searching for and Finding MIAs" was one such panel. Hosted by Valerie Thal-Slocum and Jennifer Powers (shown at center), they tell of Dr. Pat Scannon who, in 1993, originally was part of a search team seeking an armed trawler in Palau sunk by then Ensign George H.W. Bush.

Dr. Scannon found out many planes and their crews went MIA over Palau during WWII. A new mission was formed in Dr. Scannon's mind. The BentProp Project was born. Opening his own wallet, with his team doing the same, the Project is being personally bankrolled.

Time is not on the group's side. Overgrowth can cover a wreckage and make it virtually invisible, until you are right on top of it. Over 90% of the leads to downed aircraft come from the island's elders. The elder's are passing away taking their knowledge with them. BentProp is working to see that they receive that knowledge before it's gone.

The group has over four dozen aircraft finds to their credit. (Editor's Note: One of the Project's recent successes is spotlighted elsewhere on ANN, read about it here.) Many of the aircraft wreckage sites contained MIA's. Each aircraft crash site is considered a burial site and the team performs a flag ceremony. They have two flags, Palauan and US. The US flag is returned to the states and presented to a family member if they can be located.

BentProp doesn't bring the planes or MIA remains back home, they notify Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). JPAC brings home the remains.

Human nature, such as it is, maintains a grip on hope until such time as proof is shown and hope can at least turn into closure. MIA means Missing in Action; no matter that 60 years have passed, the hope remains with the relatives that their son, father, husband may still be out there and able to return to them. BentProp helps bring the families closure.

About 20 minutes of the documentary, "Last Flight Home," was also shown to seminar attendees. The documentary is meant to bring the groups quest for our missing loved ones to light. Much of the proceeds from the sale of the documentary DVD go back into the BentProp Project.

After the presentation, much of the audience was at the table ready to purchase their copy of the DVD, and help keep BentProp going.

FMI: www.lastflighthome.org, www.bentstarproject.org, www.wai.org

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