Friday, December 28, 2012

Photo Reconnaissance Training

2d Lt Rex Beach CAP
Asst. Aerospace Officer and Mission Scanner
Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188, CA Wing

Capt Frank Rieble, 2d Lt Kevin Fall. Photo by 2d Lt Rex Beach
The Veterans Day Holiday gave us the chance to do some training. Since photo reconnaissance/damage assessment seems to be a growing part of the CAP mission these days we decided the clear conditions and light winds that day would provide us with a great opportunity to brush up on our aircrew and photo re-con skills. The crew consisting of Capt Frank Riebli (pilot), 2d Lt. Kevin Fall (mission observer\photographer), and 2d Lt. Rex Beach (mission scanner\photographer) met at the Business Jet Center at the Oakland Airport to plan the mission.

Our plan was to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge, south down the Pacific coast past Half Moon Bay, east to find the town of Bonny Doon, on to the Livermore Airport for fuel, then return to the Oakland Airport. This route gave us interesting points to photograph. It also required the planning of many elevation changes due to air restrictions and topography along the route. Kevin brought along his Cannon EOS 7D camera which provided the crew with an excellent tool to document the reconnaissance.

With our plans in hand and CAP plane 83E checked out, we took off at about 11:30 in the morning. Climbing up over the Bay gave us a good look of downtown San Francisco, the bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge. 
Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by 2nd Lt Kevin Fall

We stayed close to the shore line as we headed south noting and photographing landmarks, and structures that might be susceptible to tsunami activity. Structures were observed on the high cliffs around Pacifica. Further south and below similar cliffs we noted beaches, some of which were accessible and others which were difficult for people to reach. The coastal terrain begins to flatten out as you reach the area just north of Half Moon Bay. Many structures there certainly could be impacted by a large tsunami.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Photo by 2d Lt Rex Beach
Proceeding down the coast we identified Pigeon Point Light House. We circled the lighthouse and photographed it from various aspects.  As we continued south we noted Año Nuevo State Reserve which set us up for a turn to the east to find the town of Bonny Doon. One of our mission objectives was to find and photograph the Bonny Doon Village Airport east of the town.

This is a private airport that is little used with a single runway. We flew along the ridge lines progressing east until we located the airport. Then circling the airport we took photographs of the approach and departure ends of the runway.

Boony Doon Village Airport. Photo by 2nd Lt Kevin Fall
Having completed this task we flew on to Livermore as we avoided air traffic around San Jose and Reid-Hillview airports. Landing at the Livermore Airport gave us the chance to top off our tanks with fuel for our return flight back to Oakland at around 2:30.

The training flight gave us all the opportunity to sharpen our mission planning, photo re-con and general aircrew skills in preparation for a real world mission.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Major Paul Groff Retires

By Lt Col CAP Juan Tinnirello, PIO Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188

On November 13, 2012 at the “All Hands” Squadron 188 meeting, Group 2 commander Major Steve Renwick and other members of Group 2, met to honor Major Paul Groff for his dedication and service to Civil Air Patrol.  Maj. Renwick presented Paul with commendations from National, Wing and Group 2 for his excellent and long service to CAP.   Maj. Paul Groff retires from CAP after 33 years of service and leaves behind a legacy of dedicated work and accomplishments in the many positions he held during his tenure.

Major Paul Groff
In 1979 Major Groff's son Joe was a cadet in Sq. 18 at the Oakland International Airport. Major Groff decided to join his son's squadron and so began his 3 decades of faithful service. He believes his son's participation in CAP was very instrumental in Joe choosing a career in aviation and who is now a Captain with Virgin American Airlines.

Major Groff selected the Aerospace program as his specialty track and he earned the master rating. In 1983 he joined the CAWG staff located at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, CA. He also became a member of the Aviation Section and as an instrument rated commercial pilot one of his duties was to study and improve the Mission Observer program.

His efforts led to the Scanner Rating as a pre-requisite to the Mission Observer rating. This significant improvement to how CAP aircrews conduct searches provided him the opportunity to travel through out the state explaining the new program to CAP squadrons.  Major Groff not only spoke to CAP squadrons, he also shared his methods with law enforcement agencies that had heard about the new program and wanted him to share his methods with their staff.

In the fall of 1987 Major Groff was requested to form a senior search and rescue squadron at the Oakland Airport. The new squadron was established in January 1988 (1/88). Thus was named Squadron 188 and with Amelia Earhart as its patron. Several of the senior members of Sq. 18 switched to Sq.188, so the squadron was up and running in a very short time. This writer joined the squadron in January 1990 and was assigned the job of PAO by Commander Groff.

During his tenure as Squadron Commander he trained the entire squadron membership in the various classes they needed to complete to obtain their ratings. These classes included the Emergency Services courses required to participate in the search and rescue exercises,  as well as Aerospace Education, one of his preferred subjects.

In 1997 Paul became the Group 2 Commander applying and expanding his experiences and knowledge of CAP. After serving four years as Group 2 CC, the new Group 2 CC, Lt. Col. Parris, asked Paul to become the Safety Officer. He also rejoined Sq. 188 as the Aerospace Education Officer and helped many members to obtain their Yeager Award.

In 2008 he was appointed Director of Safety for CAWG. This was a time when the National Safety program was expanded and Incident Reporting became a part of CAP standard procedure. CAWG Safety received an Excellent rating during the inspection of January 2012.

Major Steve Renwick remarking on Major Groff remarkable CAP career. Photo Lt Col Juan Tinnirello
 Maj. Paul Groff retired officially in February 2012 and will be missed by many in CAWG, and especially by members like me in Sq. 188. Farewell my friend!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Water Survival Training

Lt Louie Rivas, CAP
Operations Officer and Mission Pilot
Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188
California Wing

Crews prepping for their swim. Photo Capt Noel Luneau 
Several CAP members from Squadron 188 and Group 2 were given the opportunity to participate in water survival training provided by the United States Coast Guard. 1st Lt Al Chavez of Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188 arranged the fun and very important training session with the assistance of the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard provided the training at their training facility on Coast Guard Island in Alameda California.

Aircrew swimming while AST swimmer watches.
Photo Capt Noel Luneau 
The water training exercise was based on the scenario of CAP aircrew members floating in their flight suits while wearing a survival harness equipped with a personal flotation device (PFD). The PFD is not inflated at the beginning of the exercise but successful completion of it requires the aircrew member to swim 75 yards while wearing the cumbersome equipment.

Capt Heinrich Lutz.
Photo Capt Noel Luneau 
This part of the exercise was an eye opening experience to many of the participants. A water logged flight suit and shoes can easily add an extra 30 lbs. of weight to the suit and produce a significant amount of drag while swimming and treading water. Typical swimming techniques such as the breaststroke are not possible so combinations of the back and sidestroke were employed.

The PFD is inflated by the aircrew member after reaching 75 yards, but unlike a PFD that automatically inflates with the pull of a cord; these PFDs must be inflated by breathing into an air tube while treading water.

Some members were able to successfully inflate the PFDs by themselves, while others found it difficult to blow into the tube and overcome the downward pull of their water logged suit and shoes. They were assisted by fellow crewmembers floating nearby. Coast Guard safety swimmers monitored the struggling crewmembers, shouted guidance, and words of encouragement to all.

AST swimmer instructing aircrew. Photo Noel Luneau 
The course instructors then tossed an inverted 6-man raft into the pool. The challenge for the floating crewmembers was to invert the raft, and then climb aboard.

The rafts are designed for conditions such as this and were easily overturned. The real challenge presented itself when it was time to climb aboard.

2nd Lt Mike Cao.
Photo Capt Noel Luneau 

The combination of the water logged suits and inflated bladders of the PFD made it difficult to maneuver and board the raft. The difficulty was pulling oneself onto the small boarding platform of the raft.

One crew member in the water simulated that he was in distress so the members in the raft paddled to him and lifted the struggling airman on board.

In the end, all CAP aircrew members passed the water training exercise and many were overheard to say that they hadn't so much fun swimming with their clothes on.

USCG AST swimmers with CAP aircrews. Photo Noel Luneau 
The California Wing of CAP would like to thank the Commanding Officer of the USCG Air station San Francisco, AST1 Gabe Pulliam, AST3 Max Kaczmarek and AST3 Ernie Child for this unique and exciting opportunity to participate in the Water Survival Training Course.

Pictures of the activity are located here.