Capt. Rheta Perkins, mission scanner in an aircrew from the North Carolina Wing's Asheville Composite Squadron that participated in the post-Hurricane Sandy aerial photo mission in the Northeast, prepares to take photos of storm damage below.
Capt. Robert Stronach
Director of Public Affairs
CONCORD, N.H. – Civil Air Patrol is launching 23 aircraft from every wing along the Northeast seaboard, as well as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, to photograph hurricane damage in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and to conduct low-level missions over waterways around New York and New Jersey to pinpoint oil spills and navigation hazards for the U.S. Coast Guard.
"We have a tremendous amount of taskings to complete in the next two days," said Lt. Col. Rick Crepas, operations section chief at the Northeast Region's command post in Concord, N.H. "The logistics for getting all this to happen is tremendous. Coordination with air traffic control centers, the FAA, the New York City Police Department and other agencies all must be done for a successful operation."
One of the priorities is to complete a photo mosaic of the storm-struck Northeast for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We have thousands of images to go," said Crepas, director of emergency services for CAP's Great Lakes Region. "Those tasked with photo missions will be taking photos every five seconds."
Another priority is to help the Coast Guard locate oil spills, including sources of spills, as well as debris in the waterways that poses navigation hazards and/or public health risks. The Coast Guard, Crepas said, also wants CAP aircrews to photograph the waterways around New York and New Jersey at different times that would correspond to varying tidal conditions.
He said a third high priority is to give personnel from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a first-hand view of ravaged areas so they can better assess where to deploy recovery crews for optimal impact.
Each of the planes – all technologically advanced CAP G1000 Cessna 182s – will have a three-member crew that flies two sorties during the day. Some of the aircrews will travel more than hours to get to their target areas, Crepas said.
"We're fighting weather, shorter daylight hours and some very high air traffic areas," he said.
Crepas said 700 to 750 CAP members are supporting the post-hurricane missions daily throughout the organization's Northeast and Mideast regions, putting in up to 7,000 man-hours a day.
"We're bringing in talent and personnel to handle this" from as far away as Michigan, Illinois and Indiana," he said. "They're dedicated volunteers, most of whom have put their personal lives on hold to serve the American public."