Civil Air Patrol spreads its wings in Vermillion Saturday By: David Lias
Plain Talk There was no downed aircraft Saturday near Vermillion, no missing person, no lost soul wandering about after being in a plane crash or ground vehicle accident. But the crew that took over the terminal at the Vermillion Airport last weekend were treating their work as merely a drill. The South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) conducted a search and rescue training exercise last weekend, using the Vermillion airport as its base. It was easy to hear and spot the low-flying red, white and blue single-propeller plane used by CAP Saturday. Only one plane, which landed in Vermillion Friday night, was available for the training exercise. The remainder of the Civil Air Patrolâ�?�?s planes, scheduled to wing their way to Vermillion Saturday morning, were grounded because of fog. Saturdayâ�?�?s exercise involved top emergency responders from the city of Vermillion, Clay and Bon Homme counties. The exercise will canvas Clay and surrounding counties. Helping to organize Saturdayâ�?�?s events was Captain Teresa Schimelfening of Vermillion. She stepped down as squadron commander of the Lewis & Clark Composite Squadron last May to become director of logistics for the South Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. Saturdayâ�?�?s activities centered on practicing the art of locating the source of distress signals that are emitted from aircraft after they crash, or after they land roughly. â�?�?There are emergency locator transmitters on aircraft that automatically go off if the aircraft crashes or if they land too hard,â�? Schimelfening said. â�?�?The signal will get picked up by satellite, and the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center will get word of it, and they will task Civil Air Patrol to go out and find emergency locator transmitter.â�? Civil Air Patrol is a national volunteer organization that is an auxiliary of the United States Air Force. There are approximately 52,000 members nationwide. There are 10 squadrons based in South Dakota at Aberdeen, Brookings, Custer, Huron, Philip, Pierre, Sioux Falls, Spearfish and Yankton. Colonel Mike Marek, Vermillion, a public affairs official with the Civil Air Patrol, said the original plans for Saturdayâ�?�?s activities included six CAP aircraft from across the state. The dayâ�?�?s events had to be altered because only one plane could make it to Vermillion. Marek said CAP flies state-of-the-art, high-wing Cessna aircraft that are ideal for searches because they may be piloted low and slow through the air. Participants in Saturdayâ�?�?s exercises included local law enforcement, who took to the air in the CAP planes to get a refresher course on airborne searches. Captain John Seten, the incident commander for Saturdayâ�?�?s CAP exercises in Vermillion, said the planes that couldnâ�?�?t fly earlier that morning because of poor weather were not permanently grounded. Their pilots were busy that day conducting training in their communities. Seten has been a member of CAP for five years, and has witnessed a technological revolution that continually helps the Civil Air Patrol do its job better. â�?�?The aircraft we have today are phenomenal,â�? he said. â�?�?They are top-notch, top-of- the-line 182 Cessnas when we get new ones, and we have three relatively new ones.â�? Seten added that the communication equipment used by CAP both in the air and on the ground is excellent. â�?�?What we really need to concentrate on is inter-communications, so we are a stand-alone unit,â�? Seten said. â�?�?Then, if our infrastructure goes down, we can take all of our equipment and we can still operate.â�?