Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tsunami Exercise: An aircrewmans perspective

Lt Louie Rivas, CAP
Deputy Commander and Mission Pilot/Observer
Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188
California Wing

Speaker System
On a cloudy Wednesday morning three aircrew members of Group 2, California Wing participated in a Tsunami Exercise that extended north from Bodega Bay near San Francisco to the California/Oregon state line. The purpose of the exercise was to test the various components of the northern California Tsunami warning system.

Three aircraft were equipped with a high powered speaker system and the plan was to fly them at 1000 feet above the ground on a specific route along the California coast.  While flying they were to broadcast a pre recorded message for one hour that included a request for the public to call a phone number to report they heard the message.  A fourth aircraft known as High Bird was to circle at a high altitude and relay communications between aircraft and the command base located in Eureka.

Mission Pilot - Lt Col Brett Dolnick
Lt Col Brett Dolnick filed an IFR flight plan from Buchanan Field in Concord CA to Rohnerville Airport in Fortuna CA for an 11:00 rendezvous over Shelter Cove airport. The skies were clear at Concord but the coast was covered by a marine layer in both directions as far as the eye could see.  In the right seat Capt Paul Kubiak monitored communications and reported the flights progress to Eureka base, while 1st Lt Louie Rivas sitting in the rear of the plane prepared the broadcasting equipment.

The cloud layer covered the hilltops along the coast and prevented flying underneath the layer so the plan was to fly the approach into Rohnerville to penetrate the layer and then break off once the aircraft was beneath the clouds. The approach into the airport was executed expertly by Lt Col Dolnick but the layer was too low to safely fly underneath it. The crew then decided the best alternative was to climb and fly above the layer while broadcasting the message.

The GPS equipped aircraft has a moving map that displays the location of the aircraft relative to the terrain below. Lt Rivas was monitoring the moving map display and pushed the play button the moment the icon depicting the aircraft appeared over the image of the Shelter Cove airport hidden beneath the clouds.

Flying above the Marine Layer
The crew flew at 90 knots during the broadcast run and during this hour the crew only caught a small glimpse of the coastline below.  At 12:00, Capt Kubiak reported to Eureka Base that the aircrew had successfully broadcasted the message and that they were returning to base.  Lt Col Dolnick turned the nose of his aircraft to the south east and safely flew his crew home to Buchanan Field. 

Aircrew of Lt Col Dolnick, Capt Rivas and Capt Kubiak
All photos courtesy of Lt Louis Rivas.