Trust No One
February, a cold Sunday morning. 4:00 a.m. phone call. RCC tells me, "Midway, and an aloft airliner heard it over Joliet." Error number 1: plot lat/longs yourself at the beginning. Experience, here on the flatlands, has been that the target usually isn't more that a mile or two from the satellite ‘merge' value. Lat/Longs would have taken the ground team to within a mile of target.
A ground team was mobilized from a western suburb. Its route to Midway was to take it past several other Chicago area airports. They were instructed to be monitoring from the time they left their driveway. By the time they arrived at Midway, they had heard no signals.
I contacted Midway that heard no signal and contacted Meigs Field, Chicago's lakefront airport. Meigs reported an aircraft in pattern could hear the signal. I dispatched the ground team by radio to Meigs Field.
Arriving at Meigs, the ground team could hear the signal, but couldn't get any fix on it that made sense. All of the readings pointed off of the airport and inland. The harbor between Meigs Field and the mainland was empty. After taking readings at every corner of the airport and still having the readings point off field, I directed the ground team to run a ground pattern. They were to start south along the lakefront highway, Lake Shore Drive.
The ground team started south on Lake Shore Drive with instructions to drive to the best signal. Approximately a mile south of Meigs Field, they exited the highway to take additional readings; their signal had peaked as they passed McCormick Place, Chicago lakefront exposition center. They took out their binoculars and read the marquee on McCormick Place, where the direction finders were pointing -- Chicago Boat Show.
They proceeded back north a mile, confirmed that McCormick Place was the source via readings directly from the west. The next problem from the ground operations director was going to be getting a team into the boat show with an L'Per.
I called McCormick Place message center, inquiring as to whether the Chicago Police marine unit or the Coast Guard had booths and whether those booths had phones. The message center said that while both had a booth, neither had a phone. I composed a high impact message and asked the message center to rely it to the Coast Guard. The message was "Contact Captain Golz regarding search in progress" and gave my home number.
About ten minutes later, the ground team contacted me by radio the signal had stopped. Two minutes later the phone rang. A USCG Petty Officer was returning Captain Golz' call. I explained to him, that I was with the Civil Air Patrol and that we had had a search in progress seeking a distress transmitter on 121.5 but that the signal had stopped just moments before he had returned my call.
Somewhere in the Coast Guard, there is probably some-now Chief Petty Officer chuckling about how some CAP guy jerked his chain with the message "Call Captain Golz regarding search in progress". We'll never know the true source of the signal, but I have my suspicions.
This story submitted by Thomas B. Golz of Illinois Wing.
This page of the CAP Emergency Services Resources™ website was last updated 07/01/2008
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