Friday, September 1, 2017

Civil Air Patrol pilots to help in Texas hurricane effort

Suburban members of the Civil Air Patrol are answering the call to help Texans in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

A three-member team left Friday morning from the Lake in the Hills Airport, and another team is due to depart Saturday from the Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling.

Transport mission pilot is Capt. Dave Hooper of Inverness. Joining him in the Cessna 182 are pilot Capt. Tommy Briden of Crystal Lake and Capt. Rick Jensen of Rockford.

Their assignment: Primarily, to take photos for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Texas agencies, to help them determine the highest priority for rescue responses. The photos will also document the extent of the damage.

The three belong to Group 22 of the Illinois Wing, Great Lakes Region of the CAP. There are seven squadrons in Group 22.

Briden and Hooper are retired American Airlines pilots. Jensen, who is not a pilot, is an accountant. He will man the camera, as the plane is flown at about 1,000 feet.

They got the call for the Texas trip Thursday morning. Group 22 expects to provide help for at least a week, and possibly as long as four weeks, with members rotating in and out.

Besides taking photographs and video, the team could do other jobs, such as helping search for people.

"Emergency service is one of the main goals of the Civil Air Patrol, so we look forward to this mission," Hooper said.

Friday's flight was delayed about an hour by reports of bad weather over Tennessee, where Harvey -- now a tropical depression -- caused flooding Thursday.

The all-volunteer patrol is an auxiliary of the Air Force, which supplies the planes.

The squadron meets weekly. Its primary goal is to look for downed light aircraft. "These pop up at any moment, any time," Hooper said.

Most recently, Group 22 photographed Fox River flooding.

After Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in 2012, CAP was able to provide FEMA with a "stitched" composite aerial view of the entire effected area, the first time that had been accomplished. Besides helping with rescue, the photo also documented the hurricane's impact on infrastructure.

The CAP also fosters interest in aviation with youths. It runs a cadet program for people 12 to 21, which is how Jensen first became involved, when he was a teen. He rejoined several years ago when his son joined. At age 18, cadets can become senior members.

The patrol can also be called on for Homeland Security tasks and drug interdiction missions.

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