Civil Air Patrol to the rescue

By Army Spc. Peter J. McCollum


With the myriad of aid pouring into New Orleans among the names of the recognizable organizations are the Red Cross, FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security. Of course, there are individual volunteers as well, and among the volunteers are a group of retired pilots who are a part of the Civil Air Patrol.

The CAP is a member of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, and their primary mission is to provide aid in times of need with the use of their private aircraft. In this cast, they have donated the services of four 4 Gippsland GA-8 Airvans and about a dozen pilots.

Their mission: go wherever their services are needed.

“Our mission in the disaster relief area primarily is reconnaissance, taking photos of the affected areas and transporting people who have priority missions and transporting equipment,” said Col. Gene Hartman, who works for Homeland Security when he isn’t flying.

The low-flying aircraft make photography easier than conventional aircraft, a useful feature for assessing damage.

“We are taking photos of the damage to the area, the bridges, the affected areas; anything we can bring back that can help those in charge of assessing,” said Hartman.
The aircraft’s primary capability of transportation has not gone unused.

“We’ve done transportation missions for engineers, chaplains, medics and other people who may not have another way of getting to the scene of the disaster,” said Hartman. “We’ve also hauled communication equipment and other things that were needed.”
Hartman voiced his enthusiasm to be a part of the Katrina relief efforts.

“The hurricane itself was an absolute tragedy, and I was saddened by it when I first heard about it,” said Hartman. “Now, we are all happy that we can play a part in the relief efforts. It has been our pleasure.”