A False Find
Let me tell you a story concerning an ES mission two months ago here in Massachusetts. A Piper Arrow disappeared one day after taking off from Norwood airport. The next day, the pilot's co-workers reported him missing, and that triggered an extensive eight-day search involving CAP personnel and aircraft from at least seven states. No sign of the missing plane was ever found. The plane had an ELT but no signal was ever detected. The ground search was concentrated around the area of last radar contact while CAP aircraft swept a much wider area over both land and ocean.
On about the fifth day, AFRCC called us at mission base with the coordinates of a location they wanted us to check out. They presumably spotted something on their satellite imaging. A word of advice: don't ever mention the words "satellite imaging" to the Air Force guys! Our Mission Coordinator apparently got himself in trouble by just uttering those words on the phone with them.
We spent the better part of a day searching around those coordinates. The exact coordinates were in the middle of the woods and a considerable distance from the nearest houses or cranberry bogs. Later in the day we received refined coordinates that were closer to a residential street. Several ground teams were dispatched to investigate.
What they found was a faked plane wreck in a clearing behind some mobile homes. It had apparently been created to look like a crashed plane by kids in the neighborhood. It was not clear, however, that the youngsters created the wreck as a device to play in or as a malicious prank. Conflicting reports said that both cases could be true.
In any case, but I am told that the officials DO NOT take such things lightly. Not only were the Air Force and CAP involved, but the State Police had helicopters out searching the same area. It also remains unclear whether or not prosecution was considered.
This story was submitted by Andy Ingraham of Massachusetts Wing
Editor's Note: this story demonstrates how exercises can mistakenly and suddenly become "real." It should be a motivator for CAP personnel to disable Practice Beacons, store airplane mock-ups, and remove parachutes and other simulated visual distress signals when the exercise has terminated. Furthermore, ensure that the local Flight Service Station (1-800-WX-BRIEF) is notified of your activities. Also let them know when you've finished--thereby positively verifying that your targets were only temporary and will not be mistaken for the real thing. It would be tragic to waste resources on a false alarm that we triggered ourselves.
This page of the CAP Emergency Services Resources™ website was last updated 07/01/2008
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