Catonsville, MD — On Saturday afternoon, August 9, 2014 members of the Fort McHenry Composite Squadron completed their assigned Bay Patrol sortie. This is a Homeland Security mission, and the objective is to monitor critical infrastructure and search for vessels in distress in the Maryland Chesapeake region. The team consisted of: Mission Pilot Capt Will Kool, Mission Observer C/CMSgt Ryan Payne, Mission Scanner Maj Ki von der Linden, and Duty Officer Lt Col Jim Steinmeier. The aircrew used N99157, a Cessna 172P based at Tipton Airport. The Duty Officer established the base of operations at the Martin Incident Command Post.
While nearing the end of the routine patrol, Coast Guard Sector Baltimore broadcast an emergency Mayday call regarding a vessel reported on fire near Sparrows point. The FMCS aircrew responded, was the first to arrive on scene, and initiated a search of the area. The Baltimore City Police helicopter Foxtrot 1 joined the search and located a power boat that appeared to be producing a lot of thick smoke from its diesel engine, but determined that it was not on fire. After searching the area, there were no other signs of distress and it was concluded that the boat with the heavy exhaust was likely the cause of the report to the Coast Guard.
Just prior to landing at Martin State Airport, the Coast Guard contacted the aircrew directly to request assistance in searching for another possible vessel in distress southeast of Patuxent Naval Air Station. After coordinating with the Duty Officer, the aircrew proceeded to conduct a Line of Bearing search from the vicinity St. Mary’s County Regional Airport to Smith Island. It was getting dark and search visibility was diminishing rapidly, so only one pass was possible. No vessels were sighted, and the Coast Guard later indicated to the Duty Officer that no other leads were produced.
Even though sufficient fuel remained for the return to home base, CAP regulations require all flights to be planned with 1 hour of fuel remaining on board as a reserve for safety purposes. With this in mind, the aircrew diverted to Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport to refuel. The Fixed Base Operator responsible for providing aircraft services was closed for the evening, so the after-hours technician was called. In the meantime, the aircrew was able to borrow the crew car to drive into town for a quick meal. During the delay, Capt Kool realized that his duty period limit had been reached and he was no longer permitted by regulations to fly that day.
At this point, Lt Col Steinmeier attempted to locate a couple pilots that could fly down to pick up the aircrew and aircraft. Ultimately, he drove 3 hours to pick up the stranded aircrew, plus 3 hours back through the middle of the night so Maj von der Linden and C/CMSgt Payne could get back home. Lt Col Steinmeier continued working through the morning to complete the necessary reports and paperwork. Capt Kool remained overnight in Salisbury, and flew the aircraft back the following morning after receiving the required rest period.
Fort McHenry Composite Squadron Commander Lt Col Steve Hollis commended the entire team for their outstanding teamwork and commitment to helping others in front of the squadron during the closing formation at the following unit meeting. Lt Col Hollis recognized Lt Col Steinmeier in particular for his remarkable efforts that were above and beyond the normal call of duty. Capt Kool thanked the team members for their tremendous patience, flexibility, and understanding of the situation, and dedication to getting the job done.
The next Bay Patrol assignment for the FMCS is Saturday, August 30, 2014. The responsibility for conducting the Bay Patrol mission is shared among many squadrons in the Maryland Wing, and are conducted every weekend from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 61,000 members nationwide, operating a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP, in its Air Force auxiliary role, performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and is credited by the AFRCC with saving an average of 80 lives annually. Its unpaid professionals also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 26,000 young people currently participating in the CAP cadet programs. CAP received the World Peace Prize in 2011 and has been performing missions for America for 72 years. CAP also participates in Wreaths Across America, an initiative to remember, honor and teach about the sacrifices of U.S. military veterans. Visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com or www.capvolunteernow.com for more information.
Nearly 1,700 CAP members serve in Maryland. Last year wing members flew 13 search and rescue missions. The wing was credited with five finds and one life saved. Maryland Wing flew 32 missions for the State of Maryland. Members flew 2,106 hours in all mission categories. Volunteers contributed services estimated at 4.6 million dollars. For more information contact the Maryland Wing at www.mdcap.org.
The Fort McHenry Composite Squadron meets every Wednesday from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at American Legion Dewey Lowman Post 109, 1610 Old Sulphur Spring Road, Arbutus, MD 21227. For more information visit Fort McHenry Composite Squadron at www.ftmchenrycap.org.