A solid deck of clouds hung over Livermore Airport on Saturday morning. The group of Civil Air Patrol cadets looked toward the eastern horizon where the weather was starting to break. It was from this direction too that they hoped to see the approach of one of the familiar red, white and blue single engine aircraft that the Civil Air Patrol flies in its search and rescue and emergency services mission. Phone calls and text messages came in from CAP pilots who were flying to Livermore from four locations in the greater bay area. They reported that the weather was worse in Palo Alto and Oakland from which two of the planes were launching. The pilot from Reid Hillview airport also reported low ceilings. Mother Nature was not cooperating with our schedule to conduct orientation flights for 14 CAP cadets, most of who had never been in a small airplane before. Attitude Aviation was kindly hosting our orientation rides by providing their classroom, washrooms, and ramp.
LtCol Dolnick, CC of SQ44;
front seat: C/Amn Alexander, SQ36;
back seat: C/Amn Shacker, SQ36
At 10:00 am, the cadets grew excited as blue sky started to show through the clouds. With the weather starting to clear up the first plane approached and landed. After a short taxi back to the ramp at Attitude Aviation, Lt Col Brett Dolnick shut down the Cessna 206, hopped out and was soon giving a briefing and orientation talk to the eager cadets. Soon after, two more CAP aircraft approached piloted by Captains Jeff Ironfield and Noel Luneau. The ramp became a busy scene as cadets were matched up to aircraft and pilots. With blue skies and just a few remaining clouds the first aircraft launched off of runway 25 with Lt Col Dolnick at the controls and three cadets eager to taste their first experience of actually flying a real aircraft.
LtCol Dolnick, CC SQ44; Capt Sena, CC SQ80;
Capt Luneau, CD SQ188; Capt Ironfield, CC SQ188
The cadet orientation flights are one of a host of opportunities afforded Civil Air Patrol cadets. The orientation ride program consists of a syllabus of five flights. Each flight covers a different aspect of aviation from basic aircraft control and aerodynamics to weather, navigation and other areas important to an aviator. The program has inspired many a cadet to pursue an aviation career or to take flying lessons and obtain their private pilot’s certificate.
C/Amn Shacker, SQ36 C/Amn Alexander, SQ36
As the day progressed, our fourth plane piloted by Captain Coby Sena landed, after being delayed by weather and heavy air traffic. After briefing her two cadets, she was airborne and heading towards the East. When the final aircraft had landed back at Livermore Airport, fourteen Civil Air Patrol cadets had completed one of their syllabus flights. When asked how it went, the cadet’s responses were peppered with words like, “awesome”, “outstanding”, and “really fun”. As the flying day ended and our pilots prepared to launch back to their respective airports the question most heard from the departing cadets was, “When are we going to do this again!”
Editor's note: On way back to Gnoss field in Marin, Lt Col Dolnick and Captain Luneau identified an Emergency Locator Transmitter on the emergency frequency of 121.5 Mhz. They were given permission to conduct an Electronic Search of the Marin, Petaluma area. They subsequently found the ELT at Petaluma Airport and identified the aircrafts hangar for a Urban Direction Finding team to identify.
Major Mark Fridell is Group 2's Aerospace Education Officer
Photo's courtesy of Maj Mark Fridell and Capt Noel Luneau. Video courtesy of Maj Mark Fridell