Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Capt Luis Rivas
Photos by Luis Rivas

Twenty three members of Group 2 participated in a Basic SAREX exercise with a scenario designed to practice, refresh and renew emergency services ratings. The clubhouse at Buchanan Field in Concord was the incident command post for the exercise.
Lt Col Suter Delivering the Morning Briefing

The trainees included an Incident Commander, aircrew, ground teams and base staff searching for an “overdue aircraft” that departed Gnoss Airfield in Novato enroute to Los Banos Municipal Airport. A practice beacon, simulating the aircraft ELT, was placed at a location unknown to the trainees, with the mission of locating and deactivating it.
Aircrew Flight Planning
Maj Brown Preflighting the C172 

The newest Group 2 aircraft, a Cessna 172 with a modern glass cockpit, supported two Urban Direction Finding (UDF) teams in the search.

Communications Team C/SSGT Patil, Maj Gadd

The aircraft began searching from the point of departure of the overdue aircraft, and detected the beacon over San Ramon, significantly narrowing down the search area. 

UDF Team briefing
The UDF teams were dispatched from Buchanan Field and directed to conduct ramp searches at the Livermore, Oakland, Hayward and Reid-Hillview airports. 

Utilizing clues generated by the aircraft, the UDF teams, working together, tracked down the practice beacon to a location near Lake Del Valle. The beacon was hidden beneath a tree near a plywood silhouette made to represent a downed a downed aircraft from the air.
UDF Team finds overdue aircraft

SM Wilson finds ELT 

Lt Col Suter was the Incident Commander trainee, and he was quoted as saying “This exercise was a great training opportunity, particularly adjusting the mission to cope with constantly changing challenges. Overall a small but successful SAREX." His mentor Lt Col Deford remarked "We had a very educational exercise both in its successes and lessons learned."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Camp Fire AP Mission Support

By Capt Louie Rivas

FEMA recently requested the resources of the Civil Air Patrol’s California Wing to assist with the collection of high resolution images in support of the disaster recovery efforts of the Camp Fire.
Camera (Lt Col Luneau)

This is California’s largest fire, burning over 153,000 acres, destroying over 18,000 buildings and claiming more than 80 lives. A high resolution infra-red camera unaffected by the smoke and haze was mounted to the wing strut and connected to a tablet. The tablet provides an overhead view of the terrain and the desired track.

Tablet (Lt Col Luneau)

The mission was a carefully coordinated effort between CAP and the various firefighting agencies requiring special permission to enter the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) area. The sorties were flown after the water tankers and support aircraft had departed the area. The low visibility flying conditions and the precise coordinated flight required of the camera require a highly trained crew with sharp Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills.  The Mission Observer monitored the tablet, radios, and situational awareness, while the pilot monitored the primary flight display, course track and situational awareness too.

CAP aircraft flew multiple successful sorties over predetermined burned out areas taking images which FEMA analyzes to assess the damage and its allocation of resources.

The efforts are ongoing and Major Marc Sobel, CAP's Incident Commander said "we hope to finish the Camp Fire in the next few days, weather permitting and will move to Woolsey Fire next week.”

CAP has collected images for a number of disasters including the gulf oil spill, numerous tornadoes and hurricanes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Group 2 Emergency Procedures Flight Clinic

By Capt Karin Hollerbach

Yesterday I completed my sortie in our emergency procedures flight clinic and, always in our clinics, learned a lot!

Capt Michelogiannakis. Archive photo.
Group 2 organized a flight clinic for our pilots to practice emergency procedures – especially those that we might not ordinarily train for in our normal training, even when preparing for a Form 5 or a biennial flight review. Thanks to Capt Michelogiannakis (Squadron 188) for organizing the event and acting as Project Officer as well as Ground School (and Flight) Instructor.

Staff in the clinic included Group 2 instructors and an Incident Commander (IC)/Flight Release Officer (FRO):
  • Lt Col Dolnick (California Wing)
  • Lt Col Luneau (Group 2)
  • Maj Tubis – IC and FRO (Squadron 10) 
  • Maj Ironfield (Squadron 156)
  • Capt Michelogiannakis (Squadron 188)
  • Capt Arasmith (Squadron 10)  
  • Capt Basile (Squadron 10)

A total of 12 pilots are going through the training, which included the ground school (done virtually, since we are scattered all over the Bay Area) and one sortie per participant.

Ground school discussion topics included:
  • Engine fire
  • Electrical fire to emergency descent
  • Wing fire
  • Impossible turn simulated at altitude
  • Power off landings from altitude to an uncontrolled field
  • Landing without flaps
  • Simulated alternator failure (G1000 aircraft)
  • Landing with a flat tire or severe bald spot
  • Brake failure in one wheel 
  • Asymmetrical flaps 

Among both the staff and the students, we've had great cross-squadron participation! Twelve pilots came from 5 different Group 2 squadrons:
  • Lt Col Suter (Squadron 44) 
  • Lt Col McDowell (Squadron 80) 
  • Maj Brown (Squadron 156) 
  • Capt Rivas (Squadron 188) 
  • Capt Hollerbach (Squadron 188) 
  • Capt Mateos (Squadron 10)  
  • Capt Heldt (Squadron 80)
  • 1st Lt Kraus (Squadron 188) 
  • 1st Lt Booth (Squadron 188)
  • 1st Lt De Bleecker (Squadron 10)
  • 1st Lt Gross (Squadron 10)
  • 2d Lt Sharma (Squadron 188)

Here's where I get to point out that 25% of our pilot participants in this clinic are women.  Nice work, Group 2! (And an additional 8 pilots are men.  Nice work, Group 2!)

My sortie was a great combination of fun and learning. That seems to have been the theme among students. Lt Col McDowell, for example, started his learning immediately, before he even got to the emergency procedures: "the flight itself was a bit of a challenge as I was in a new plane with avionics I wasn't familiar with."

I was happy to hear him say that, because "new" (to the aircrew) avionics may be workable when everything is going smoothly on a clear, calm VFR day in familiar territory, but once things start going wrong, they can go very wrong very quickly when unfamiliar avionics are thrown into the mix. At least for me, I've found it really important to train with new aircraft/avionics in "easy" conditions.

We started off with emergency descents, with the goal of reaching the ground (preferably a suitable location on the ground!) as quickly as possible, while remaining safe. That was well worth practicing before you have to do it in a real emergency, as the steep spiral that we did (on the assumption that we wanted to get down in a location close to where we were, not use our descent to get somewhere further away) presented a rather unusual sight picture – at least, unusual for anyone, like me, not used to aerobatics.

Following the emergency descent, we also practiced a simulated “impossible turn”, simulating an engine out shortly after takeoff, and measuring how much altitude we lost if turned the more than 180 degrees required to return to the runway and land (in the opposite direction of takeoff). Fun at altitude… probably a lot scarier close to the ground. Of course, how much you actually lose will depend on a lot of factors, including your airplane’s configuration, the wind, your reaction time and ability to maintain best glide, etc.

An extension of that was the simulated engine out at higher altitude, where we spiraled down over an un-towered airport, lined up with the downwind portion, and then turned in a “normal” pattern to land.  Well, I didn’t land due to crosswinds, but demonstrated being able to land. I did come in too high because I didn’t want to do another complete 360 turn – which probably should have had me extending my downwind a bit further but instead I slipped into the runway. Perhaps there was some psychological pressure to not get too far away from the runway…

On the flight back to KOAK, we also discussed several in flight fire scenarios, and simulated an alternator failure. Finally, we ended with a no flap landing and a short field landing.

On top of all that, Capt Michelogiannakis caught a couple of less-than-ideal flying habits of mine, which was great! The goal, after all, was to improve my flying skills and to increase safety – ideally while having fun doing it.  All goals were accomplished!  A huge ‘thank you’ to all of our volunteers for making this clinic happen and to our pilot participants to investing time to improve their skills.

For those of you who haven't completed your sorties yet, fly, fly, fly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Fifth Tuesday BBQ with Squadron 18

By Capt Karin Hollerbach and Lt Col Juan Tinnirello, photos by Lt Col Tinnirello except as noted

Squadron 188 members unloading equipment at HWD in
preparation for the event.
Last week, Squadron 188 members headed over to Hayward to get together with Squadron 18 for 5th Tuesday barbecue at Squadron 18’s headquarters. On the agenda were both training events and plenty of food and conversation, as well as opportunities to get to meet more CAP members within Group 2.  For many of us, most of the members we interact and work with are within our own squadron, so any opportunity to mingle with other squadrons is welcome!

Several Squadron 188 members met early at KOAK to load up mission critical equipment, including the Squadron 188 grill for barbecuing, as well as UDF and radio equipment for training. Thanks to all who were able to show up early and pitch in for this.

Future pilot practicing on a flight simulator.
Lt Devine operating the grill. 

At HWD, Squadron 18 Commander, 1st Lt Hurst, gathered the squadron's cadets and explained the purpose of the combined event. She then introduced Capt Hayes, who provided details of how the training would take place.

Eleven Squadron 18 cadets participated in hands-on Emergency Services (ES) activities after some classroom training sessions with Squadron 188 members. The emphasis was on radio communications (training led by 1st Lt Roberts) and Urban Direction Finding, i.e., searching for a practice beacon (led by 1st Lt Chavez), and on having fun, too. After the classroom training, two teams searched for - and both successfully found - a practice beacon.

Lt Roberts providing classroom training for Comm.
Further training will be necessary to complete all the requirements to become a UDF team member, but the basic instructions and practice received that evening will help the cadets to accomplish this important ES goal. The communications class will also require further training, but the first steps were completed and put the cadets well on their way in their training for the Mission Radio Operator (MRO) rating.

SM Pagels reported having fun to interact with the cadets, as this was her first time doing so, and found the review of radio communications and UDF basics to be a helpful learning experience –not just for the cadets!

The overall intent was to: support Squadron 18, introduce ES, and hopefully get some additional members interested in and beginning on their training for their ES ratings.

Lt Chavez providing classroom training for UDF.

Cadets and senior members putting their UDF training to use in the field.

Capt Hayes speaking to Squadron 18 cadets. 

Lining up for food!
Lt Mello and Capt Fenolio flew o-rides for several cadets earlier in the afternoon. The cadets all had a great time, some initially timid but by the time they were able to understand the basic principles of flight, were eager to hold on to the flight controls for themselves. One of the cadets on his 3rd syllabus flight is working on training for his private pilot certificate and has already experienced slow flight, stalls, and other maneuvers.

Another cadet on her 4th syllabus flight understood the flight instruments well, and did the GPS navigation on her o-ride, navigating to LVK and to CCR, and working on other flight instruments including airspeed and altimeter, and became very good at understanding trim and coordinated flight.  Her summary, “that was fun!”

Cadet Fontanilla (L) on her 4th syllabus flight,
with Capt Fenolio (R). Photo by Capt Fenolio.

While all the training was taking place, senior members and parents prepared dinner, led by 1st Lt Devine at the BBQ. When the food was ready, everybody gathered at the mess hall and had a yummy dinner as well as a great time conversing with each other and making new friends.

Finally, a group picture of all the cadets and senior members was taken to document the memorable event.

The event was a great success: Training was successful; fun was had; everyone stayed safe. A number of squadron leaders asked for additional sessions in the future and some of the senior cadets expressed interest in participating in future exercises.

Enjoying an excellent meal together.
Squadron 188 members that participated included:

  • Lt Col Tinnirello
  • Capt Hayes
  • Capt Rivas
  • Capt Fenolio – provided o-rides to Squadron 18 cadets 
  • 1st Lt Chavez – led UDF training
  • 1st Lt Choate
  • 1st Lt Roberts – led Comm training
  • 1st Lt Devine – awesomely worked the grill
  • 2d Lt Roudnev
  • 2d Lt Valeur
  • 2d Lt Campbell
  • 2d Lt Sharma
  • 2d Lt Rainville
  • 2d Lt Mello – provided o-rides to Squadron 18 cadets 
  • SM Ferland
  • SM Pagels

Members of Squadrons 188 and 18.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Long cross-country: flying to/from the Cessna factory

By Capt Karin Hollerbach

Last week I had the chance to fly to Kansas in the back of a 206 and then to fly 2 out of 3 (well, 2 out of 4, which I’ll explain later) legs of the trip back, in a 182.  It was great flying with 3 other pilots from Squadron 188 and/or the newly formed Tri-Valley Squadron – Lt Col DeFord, Maj Fridell, and 1st Lt Choate.

This was my first time flying quite so far from (or rather, “to” in my case) home. Straight-line distance between KIDP (Independence Municipal Airport, Kansas) and KLVK (Livermore Airport, California) is 1237.2 nm – times 2 out and back.  That’s a lot of flying in two days. A little too far for a Cessna to do in one sortie, so we broke up the trip into 4 legs out, spent the night in Independence, and planned for 3 and actually flew 4 on the way back.

What’s at KIDP?  The Cessna factory!  We flew there to pick up an old 182Q with a new engine.  Another first:  I’d never flown an aircraft with 21.1 starting Hobbs time before and kept thinking it must be missing some digits.

Canyons not too far from where we flew past the Colorado River where it flowed into the Grand Canyon (south and at that point somewhat west of us). 
You can really see how the water in the (muddy) river
carves out the canyons. 

With neither Maj Fridell nor myself being (yet) 206 qualified, Lt Col DeFord and Lt Choate took turns flying the 206 to KIDP on the way out, each taking 2 sorties: KLVK to KVGT (North Las Vegas, Nevada) to KFMN (Four Corners, New Mexico) to KLBL (Liberal, Kansas) to KIDP. It was a long (and hot) day:  We met at KLVK early, for takeoff around 7 AM, and didn't arrive at our hotel in Kansas until around 11 PM local time.  The brief stop at KVGT was fun for me, since that’s where I had done my private checkride!  It being Las Vegas in the summertime, however, it was hot, and we were all happy to push on quickly.

Changing terrain as we head further east on the leg from KVGT to KFMN. 

Interesting rock formation en route to Four Corners. 
One of the most interesting things for me on the flight heading east was seeing the terrain change across the US going from west to east – crossing the Central Valley in California, crossing the Sierras, then Death Valley, Las Vegas, the desert and plateaus just north of the Grand Canyon, then more mountainous terrain, then a gradual slow descent into the plains of the Midwest – all viewed at much lower altitudes than if we’d just hopped on a commercial flight. To be sure, we flew high enough to need oxygen on two of our legs – both to fly over mountains and to stay a little cooler – but it was still a lot lower than airliners!

On the second morning, we checked out our “new” airplane and found it had very little by way of extra equipment – but it did pass our thorough preflight inspection, after we put in a few additional quarts of oil. It took a while to visit the offices of the Cessna factory, get fuel at the local FBO, and convince ourselves that yes, the airplane was airworthy. We launched – by late morning, making for another long day on the way back.

 Very different terrain nearing Kansas!

On the flights headed west, we split up, with Lt Col DeFord and Lt Choate flying again in the 206 (and being able to take on more fuel without having to worry about those pesky two additional passengers in the back), and Maj Fridell and I flying the 182. Since the 206 had weather info in the cockpit, and the 182 did not, we decided to fly together so that Maj Fridell and I could get our own, personal in-flight weather advisories from the 206. This, combined with input from the very helpful ATC personnel we talked to throughout the day, came in very handy, particularly as we deviated around several thunderstorms moving through our planned flight path.

With an on the ground weather briefing, ATC input, real-time reports from the 206 flying just far enough ahead of us to give actionable information, and our own eyeballs out the window, we were able to stay safe and avoid hitting too many bumps in the sky. (Fortunately for my personal development (!), and with me being a self-proclaimed “weather wimp”, the ongoing light turbulence that we did have during my first close-to-4-hour leg was a good opportunity for me to practice staying relaxed and not get overly fatigued.)

Maj Fridell flew the first leg, from KIDP to KTCC (Tucumcari, New Mexico). With the late start, I was ready for lunch by the time we arrived at KTCC… but the airport is well outside of town, so I settled for a lemonade and whatever snacks I could find in my flight bag. We decided it would be fun (and on our way!) to land at KGCN (Grand Canyon Airport) so that’s what we did – even though flightseeing around the canyon was not on the agenda. Still even the surrounding area is beautiful.  I will admit to a rather steep final approach to the airport, because there’s a busy heliport immediately next to the runway, and I couldn’t help but be uncomfortable with having several helicopters right between me on short final and my touchdown point … I guess that’s what slips are for, so that’s what we did. It was stabilized, just a little (lot) steeper than normal!

Our "new" plane at the Cessna factory in Kansas. 

At KGCN we were greeted by some friendly folks from the FBO, who not only refueled our aircraft but drove us into town (and picked us up again), so that we could finally have a late lunch at an excellent Mexican restaurant. From there, we debated our options for flying home, either on the same day or with one more overnight somewhere between the Grand Canyon and KLVK. After some discussion, we decided a safe course of action would be for us to change things around a bit, with Maj Fridell hopping into the 206 and Lt Col DeFord flying with me in the 182.

Maj Fridell, adding oil before we left KIDP. 
Since it was going to be a very long day, I had no desire to fly home by myself, with crossing the mountains, moderate altitude, landing at night, still fairly unfamiliar avionics, etc. Having another accomplished pilot in the right seat next to me was a big help. Not having oxygen and having a new engine in our plane, we diverted somewhat to the south, to avoid crossing the higher peaks of the Sierras, especially after dark. This way, we were able to fly low enough to not need oxygen but still high enough to have lots of safety margin between us and the ridges we crossed – and could see the valley ahead just as it was getting really dark.

Based on our planning, and with full tanks, we intended to fly all the way home. En route, however, our engine was running hot and, taking steps to keep it cool, we used up more fuel than planned. Flying further north toward home, we eyeballed our fuel gauges and recalculated and considered our late night options. “It’s probably enough…” “I think we can make it…” At that point, we looked at each other and decided that even having to ask that question was really enough to provide the answer – let’s land and refuel.  Would we have been OK?  In hindsight, yes – if nothing else happened to cause us to deviate. Even though the last leg after refueling ended up being a very short hop to our final destination, KLVK, we were both very happy with our decision to stop. Better to be safe and get home and to bed a little later than to not make it home at all.  Plus, we met someone while refueling and might have recruited a future new member!

Rainbow in Kansas.
Being an early morning person and having just flown almost 8 hours, I was far too exhausted to consider flying the last leg – many thanks to Lt Col DeFord for doing so and getting us safely back on the ground at KLVK.

Besides having a great time with 3 other pilots on this transport mission, I had fun learning about longer cross-country flying trips; differences in weather patterns when flying west-east – and west again (rather than the north-south cross-country trips I’ve done more of to date); getting weather help from ATC and from our friends in the 206; and considering the very real impact of fatigue after two long days of flying and of the desire to get home and forcing oneself to nonetheless balance that against safety considerations. These are considerations that anyone flying long days will run into – and they become very real.

Now, go out and fly our “new” plane, which is currently still based at KLVK!  We can never know how long we’ll have it, so I encourage all of our Group 2 pilots to fly it sooner rather than later.