Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tsunami - California Coast Mission

Strong waves approaching Santa Cruz
A CAWG all request was received early Friday morning for crews to perform recon missions for the Tsunami threat at the request of the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA). The initial response was to fly CAP453 with Mission Pilot (MP) Capt. Suter and Mission Observer (MO) 1st Lt. Andruss, both of Squadron 44. CAP453 which is normally located at either Concord or Oakland had been relocated to Livermore during the overnight hours as a result of the Tsunami threat.

While the crew was enroute to the plane, Capt. Luneau was also added to the mission. We all reported to the Livermore Airport Terminal. After arriving we were instructed to standby for a mission assignment. During the downtime at Livermore, 2nd Lt. Perreira of the Oakland Squadron stopped in Livermore and said that he really wished there was another seat. 1st Lt. Andruss, had some personal business to attend to, so they swapped.

2d Lt Perreira - MO

The final crew consisted of Mission Pilot (MP) Capt. Suter, Mission Observer (MO) Capt. Luneau and Mission Scanner (MS) 2nd Lt. Pereira. Our mission assignment was to fly to the Golden Gate Bridge and then fly south to Monterey following the coast and taking pictures of any significant damage observed. This included every turn in the coastline, and as a result the flight time was considerably longer than flying in a direct line. 

We flew a normal mission profile at 1000 feet and 90 knots. During the flight we observed significant wave action and a large amount of bottom disturbance in the ocean, but very minimal damage to the coastline. Each harbor and significant infrastructure was examined in some detail, although the significant damage in Santa Cruz was not observed, since it was somewhat inland from the coast. The harbor in the ocean did not appear to sustain any significant damage. 

NorCal Approach was extremely cooperative in allowing transition Class Bravo at 3,500 feet direct to the Golden Gate Bridge.  They also allowed us to maneuver even within the Airport Traffic Area of Monterey with no restrictions which really aided in the prosecution of this mission. 

Landing at Oakland Airport

After turning around at the point at Pacific Grove, we returned northbound past Santa Cruz and then flew directly to Oakland Airport, where we downloaded the photos and debriefed the mission.  Subsequent to that we returned to Livermore. While the actual mission flight time was 3 hours, total time was about 12 hours, which included crew standby, flight preparation, the actual flight and post-flight debriefing.

This was a great example of the varied types of missions that the Civil Air Patrol performs for many government agencies throughout the nation.

Capt Chris Suter is an officer in Squadron 44 and is a qualified Mission Pilot.

Images courtesy of Capt Noel Luneau and 2d Lt Doug Perreira

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