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Civil Air Patrol's Arizona Wings See Busy Holiday Season

From the Navajo Airlift to Rapid-Response Rescues AZ Pilots Kept on Their Toes

It was busier than usual for the Civil Air Patrol this year, with volunteers assisting the 38th Navajo Christmas Airlift and others homing in on a downed airlift participant.

Last November, a pair of aircraft were hauling the mail from Arizona to Gallup, New Mexico to deliver donations to the Navajo Nation. While passing the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona, one aircraft, piloted by one half of the father-son delivery duo, suffered engine malfunction and landed in a wooded area. His son remained in the area, circling the scene and maintaining watch over the sight until he had to press on due to fuel concerns.

Lieutenant Colonel Leland Scott Curtis, a transport pilot of the Arizona Wing’s Scottsdale Composite Squadron 314, diverted from his Arizona-bound flight to report on the situation, finding that rescue personnel had already beaten him to the punch. Those on scene found that the downed pilot was somewhat injured, but cushioned by some of the soft goods carried for the airlift program. Without grievous injuries, the pilot recuperated at home a few days later.

While all that continued in Arizona, another imperiled but unrelated aircraft made a forced landing near Payson, Arizona. Nearby personnel of the Air Patrol's Payson Senior Squadron 209 heard the mayday call over the radio and ran the incident up the chain to begin the response process. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center opened a mission, greatly accelerating the rescue process thanks to the rapid, timely intervention of a CAP pilot making his a maintenance flight near payson. The downed pilot was quickly rescued, thanks to very timely intervention and attention to 121.5.

The Arizona Wing passed along the anonymous pilot's compliments, who said “For the 40 years of my flying life, I’ve been reading stories of aircraft accidents in various aviation periodicals. In the back of my mind, I wondered what it would be like to endure an accident. How would I react, and would the rescue system work?"

“Although I don’t recommend the experience, the reality was mostly drama-free. My training kicked in, the ELT worked, a passing commercial airline received my emergency call, the information was relayed to the proper authorities, and within an hour, a CAP plane was circling overhead reassuring me that help was on the way.

“I was rescued shortly thereafter by a sheriff’s helicopter that conveniently took me back to my home hangar. The plane was totaled, but I was rescued and back home within three hours of the incident –amazing.”



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